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Home educators warn bill proposing more scrutiny could be 'gateway' to further regulation

PUBLISHED: 08:43 16 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:54 16 February 2018

Home educated children working together. Picture: Sunray Photography

Home educated children working together. Picture: Sunray Photography

Archant

Home educators in Norfolk say a bill proposing yearly checks and greater scrutiny would infringe on family life - and risk further regulation down the line.

Currently, local authorities keep a register of children who are deregistered from school, attempt to keep in touch with families and intervene if they don’t feel parents are providing an adequate education.

But the bill, if made into law, would see local authorities given a duty to “monitor the educational, physical and emotional” development of home educated children.

The bill, which has been created by Lord Soley and is currently being put to the House of Lords, also says annual assessments should be undertaken.

MORE: From qualifications to socialising - a home educator tackles the most common questions

It has left many in the home educating community concerned over its implications.

Sue King, a home educator from Broadland, said it would ask families “to give up our freedom to a private home life”, and said Lord Soley’s fears that children may be at risk of abuse or neglect were unsubstantiated.

“The majority of home educated children are out and about every day at libraries, cubs, clubs and so on,” she said. “Anyone who is concerned about a child’s welfare can contact social services, who have the same powers to visit and monitor a home educating family as any other family. This works well and, I, like many other home educating parents, see no need for any change.”

She said she was happy to tell the local authority how she planned to educate her children, but that the infringement on their private lives was too far.

MORE: Number of children being educated at home in Norfolk rises by 20pc in one year

Her comments were echoed by fellow Norfolk home educator Antony Patchett, who said it could become a “gateway bill” to introduce further regulation.

He said: “On top of that, there isn’t the money for the current system of local authority engagement, so which magic money tree will be harvested to fund the extra work?”

In January, Norfolk County Council’s children’s services committee was asked to consider whether its services to home educators team was well staffed enough, as officers fight to keep up with a growing workload.

Mr Patchett said a system similar to Cambridgeshire’s would be favourable, where there is less paperwork, and money is freed up to help families with exam fees.

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