‘More checks needed’ on home education across West Sussex

‘More checks’ on home education in West Sussex need to be made to secure the safeguarding of children, county councillors have suggested.

County Hall Chichester

Speaking on the subject of home education and radicalisation at last Wednesday’s Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee, Sujan Wickremaratchi (Con, Haywards Heath Town) said that English was an ‘important subject’ and should be taught and made mandatory.

He had asked Sir Nicholas Soames, Mid Sussex MP, to write to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, but described being ‘not quite happy’ by the response.

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He said: “I still feel that within the ethnic minority groups action is needed to make sure English is mandatory and it is taught if home education takes place.”

He added: “More checks should be made.”

Officers said that the latest research showed that outcomes for home educated children was ‘pretty good’, and if they were to challenge the curriculum they would be on ‘thin ice’.

They told members that although it was an issue raised consistently by councillors, the role local authorities could take was ‘very very limited’ as there is a ‘presumption that people have a right to educate their children at home’.

The committee was discussing the West Sussex Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report for 2014/15, which said that WSCC ‘strives to work collaboratively with elective home educators’, with the number of young people known as electively home educated has risen to 560.

Jeremy Hunt (Con, Chichester North), WSCC cabinet member for education and skills, said they had been assured by the Government that what was in place was adequate but it was also constantly reviewing the situation.

But Lionel Parsons (UKIP, Sompting and North Lancing) felt they had to deal with the situation now and suggested they involve the Local Government Association (LGA), adding: “We need to be more robust in pushing it up the line to the minister.”

He continued: “Radicalisation and Child Sexual Exploitation, these are the things we are here for, and these are the things we are concerned about. If it’s possibly happening when children are being taught at home we need to deal with it.”

Peter Evans (Con, East Preston and Ferring), cabinet member for children - start of life, said he would check if the LGA was doing any work on elective home education and report back.

Roger Oakley (Con, Worthing East) added: “If you have a parent or guardian who engages in abuse of the child at home, the facility to provide home education will give that parent or guardian the opportunity to pursue that abuse unseen or undetected.”

He argued that the council had to ensure it was not facilitating any cases of abuse by having inadequate safeguarding in place.

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