Parents who educate their children at home could be using it to cover the child’s right to schooling abuse, neglect and forced marriage, the Children’s Minister has claimed. Baroness Delyth Morgan said home schooling could be masking a range of evils including sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.
Her controversial comments immediately provoked fury from home schooling groups who branded them ‘offensive’. Baroness Morgan remark came as she ordered a review of how the estimated 55,000 children who are taught at home or have dropped out from school are treated. It is in response to local authorities’ and children’s charities’ anxiety about their ability to properly support and monitor those who are home schooled. But yesterday’s launch appears to have been completely overshadowed by Baroness Morgan’s comments.
She said: ‘Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. I’m sure, the vast majority do a good job. However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need. And in some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated.
The review will investigate how home education is supported and monitored and how concerns about the welfare and education of a child are dealt with. Among its explicit aims is to ‘consider what evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude’. Last night Ann Newstead, spokesman for the charity Education Otherwise, a charity for parents who home school their children, said claims that children were safer in the hands of the state than parents was ‘offensive’ and ‘not born out by an increasing number of families in the UK’. Annette Taberner, member of EO’s policy group said ‘no other community would be expected to suffer the prejudice and discrimination which our community has to endure.