Home school worry after Dylan Seabridge’s scurvy death

The BBC is reporting that calls have been made for a mandatory home education register after an eight-year-old boy who had no contact with the authorities died from scurvy.

An inquest heard Dylan Seabridge, who died in Pembrokeshire in 2011, was “invisible” to the authorities because he was home schooled.

Wales’ Children’s Commissioner said parents should sign a register declaring they are home educating. 

The Welsh government said it would publish guidance on the matter soon.

A leaked draft serious case review into Dylan’s death, written in 2013, concluded the laws on home education in Wales needed to be strengthened as a matter of urgency.

Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland said it was every parent’s right to home educate their child if they wished, but she was concerned some children were “falling under the radar”.

She said a mandatory home education register and regular meetings with an education specialist would allow parents the freedom to choose the education they wanted, while also letting local authorities provide support when needed.

“I don’t think home education itself is a child protection worry but we do need to as a society keep our eye on all the children in our community,” she added…

Bev Carr, a home educator in Brecon, Powys, said the only involvement the authorities played in her son’s education was “a token letter” each year. 

She said she had no objection to a register if it was funded properly and proved to be “more of a help then a hindrance”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales’ Good Morning Wales programme, Ms Carr said health authorities should be as much of a part of the process as education services and called for funding for healthy living such as encouraging home schooled children to use sports facilities.

“If a child is born in the western world in our modern society, they shouldn’t be invisible,” she added.

More at: Home school worry after Dylan Seabridge’s scurvy death

 

Last time we covered this subject and had a poll on the idea of increasing regulation of home schooling, the vote received hundreds of visits from around the world after the link was posted on homeschooling forums.

But is there a real issue here. Not for the overwhelming majority of home schoolers – I hope that goes without saying – but because the safeguards are so weak for the tiny minority where children might be at risk?

Please give us your thoughts and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Parenting, Policy and Safeguarding.

Comments

  1. magicmacdougal

    SchoolsImprove growth in Home Schooling at time when schools are better than ever is very worrying LA should have power to visit half term

  2. Ali

    magicmacdougal SchoolsImprove During the same period that Dylan died of scurvy, Pembrokshire schools were under investigation (or should have been) for having padded, windowless rooms where they shut children in for “timeout”. Children with learning difficulties. I assume you have the education necessary to understand just how bad a method that is of treating extremely vulnerable young people? This is a matter of record, you can look it up.

  3. Ali

    This child was not “invisible” concerns were raised a year before he died. The people with the power to follow up those concerns (IE Social Services) didn’t. Instead of blaming home education, find out why Social Services not only didn’t do their job, but are trying to pass the blame on.

  4. RachaelHawkins

    What is this notion of ‘invisible children’?
    Children are registered at birth, registered with health visitors, doctors, dentists, opticians seen in the community and are all known about. Cases like this only highlight the failings of Social Services and other services to act promptly and correctly when a child in need is identified. Blaming home educators and requiring registration is passing the buck.

  5. llondel

    No one has yet explained how registration would have helped Dylan. The reports have said that concerns were expressed a year before he died, so who in authority was sitting on these reports and not correctly acting on them? Sending in an education inspector when a welfare check is required is not the correct response, so as with other similar cases, it is the local authority failing and trying to use home education as a scapegoat.
    The “if it saves one child” is not a good metric to use either, because it fails to account for the other children trampled in the rush to find that one child. Some children are withdrawn from school because they are suicidal or depressed due to the school environment, and these children are often terrified of someone from the local authority intruding on their safe space, someone who might be there to send them back to the school from which they’ve just escaped.
    Too many local authorities behave poorly with regard to home education, and some inspectors have the attitude of “you will have a visit or I will report you to social services”, or “I expect you to do this, this and this or I will start proceedings to issue a school attendance order”. Is it any wonder that home educators resist when they’re dealing with such petty, power-mad people in positions of power? To be fair, not all local authorities are like this, but even the good ones may be one budget cut or retirement from having such a person take over the role.

  6. Elaine

    Far from being invisible, home educated children are uniquely visible. Such children are seen in their communities by a wide range of individuals and organisations.
    Dylan was not invisible, concerns about his wellbeing were raised with Children’s Services long before his death, but not followed up correctly.
    Children’s services already have the power under the Children Act to investigate where a child is in need or where a child is at risk (Children Act 1989 s17 and s47). If the parents refuse access to the child and the Authority is concerned, an emergency order can be obtained to compel the parents to allow access to their child (Children Act 1989 s 44), but this Authority children’s services department was inept.
    One only has to look at news reports by the BBC about the Authority at that time, to know how badly they were performing.
    Further, GPs are themselves at a loss to diagnose scurvy in patients, in Dylan’s case I understand that it as at first thought to be meningitis. So how could a Local Authority education officer on a monitoring visit do so?
    This is the same old buck passing and blaming the education department or home education, that we see whenever Social Services are caught with their ineptitude showing. That is all too often.
    A child is the responsibility of the parents, not the state, unless there is cause to be concerned. At that point the reactive duty of the state comes in. Where there is no such concern there is no duty to actively investigate parenting, neither should there be.
    Sadly, where concerns arise, social workers let children down and look to scapegoat.

  7. Elaine

    Bev Carr does not and cannot speak for home educating families.
    A woman who dipped her toe in, leapt out and turned to journalistic comment instead. 
    Home educators commonly leave the education system because it has let them down. Many have seen their children abused by the system that ignorance is asking them to have in control of their children again.
    Only yesterday I received evidence that 4 school staff members had pinned a 4 year old to the floor badly bruising the child. He was crying for his mother. A crime requiring 4 adults to pin him down presumably. 
    In addition to the heinous incidents, many, many more are simply let down by an education system that fails 40% of children. SEN children get no extra support, gifted children are ignored and disabled children forced to attend when seriously ill or see their parents fined.
    No home educator with knowledge would accept involvement of the Local Authority on a routine basis. Bev Carr is not a home educator, simply picked out as the figurehead who meets the media hype ideal.

  8. Doingitforthekids

    Those of us who have been active in the home education for a long time (unlike the Bev Carr who’s children, I understand attend school) have faced these kinds of attacks and lies before and know that all this is nonsense and hyperbole. Occasionally we see stories of neglected and/abused children who’s tragic circumstances are then exploited and used as examples of the supposed dark and sinister side of home education, children who were let down badly by services that already knew of the difficulties they faced in their young lives. The government agencies that they had contact with did not use the powers already available to them to help and are now pretending that if they had just one more law, or two or three or five hundred, they could have done their jobs better. Too often we see the tragedies of these young lives being used to push forward a personal and/or political agenda that deflects blame from failing goverment services and instead tries to implicate a loving, lively, diverse and vibrant home educating community. Daniel Seabridge was known by agencies that could and should have helped protect him and help his family. We should be putting all our time and efforts into ensuring government agencies do their jobs properly under the powers they already possess instead of pretending we need to waste public time and money creating unnecessary regulation at the risk of alienating a whole community and at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds or more to the tax payer. No one is saying that home ed children are immune to abuse but we are saying that powers are already in place to deal with such instances. Add to this the fact that home educating families are already faced with constant scrutinty every day from neighbours, shop assistants, delivery drivers, old lafies waiting for a bus, hairdressers, schooled children, other parents, extended family, it is very difficult to try to remain hidden from society. There can surely be no other community that gets so many questions and interrogations about how we choose to live our lives from friends and strangers alike! Our children are not ‘hidden’ but very much on public display whether we like it or not! Take a look at this blog for an alternative view on the case mentioned here http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup/2016/01/23/the-death-of-dylan-seabridge-home-education-in-the-news/

  9. Alan

    84.6 % of referrals to Childrens Services arise from outside the school environment – police, health services, individuals and LA services (leisure centres,pools, libraries etc).  15.4% arise from schools.
    The safeguards are not weak, they are not being adhered to by those with the power to deal with the issues.  Home educated children are seen by all manner of people in the community and are referred to children’s services at twice the rate of the 0-5 and School Aged children yet fewer are on CPP’s as a result..
    There is no credible evidence in the form of surveys or serious case reviews showing home educated children to be at greater risk than 0-5 aged children or school aged children.  None.
    When there is credible evidence of a problem, you will find home educators more than willing to listen. When all there is is media and political rhetoric fuelling stereotypes, what does that say?  
    There are 30,000+ home educated children on local authority lists as ‘home educated’.  Its a decent pool of children to survey but no one has and it seems no one can be bothered to.
    If there is some problem of hidden children, why are there no calls for ALL  children to be registered at an NHS GP or Hospital – all the health and welfare issues claimed as being home education related are just that – health and welfare related.  Why send an education administrator to deal with those?
    If you don’t believe me and you are actually willing to engage in the topic properly, go and read the serious case review and court judgement for the Ishaq Children, which is blamed on home education when that had nothing to do with it.  
    The problem in this so called debate is that one side is ill informed, preferring to swallow the media presentation of each ‘incident’.  A bit of easy digging soon shows what the truth is … but by then the story has moved on as the sound bites ran out.
    Dig deeper.

  10. Alan

    magicmacdougal SchoolsImprove 
    Schools are better than ever according to what measure?  OFSTED 2014/2015  “This year, we recommended an external review of governance for almost a third of schools judged inadequate or requires improvement, nearly 500 schools in total”
    “Of the secondary schools that are inadequate for behaviour and safety, 74% are in the North and Midlands. There are currently over 51,000 pupils in the North and Midlands attempting to learn in secondary schools where behaviour is likely to be unacceptably poor”

    OFSTED 2013/2014  “Children in primary schools have a better chance than ever of attending an effective school. Eighty-two per cent of primary schools are now good or outstanding, which means that 190,000 more pupils are attending good or outstanding primary schools than last year. However, the picture is not as positive for secondary schools: only 71% are good or outstanding, a figure that is no better than last year. Some 170,000 pupils are now in inadequate secondary schools compared with 100,000 two years ago.”
    Better at bullying – tick.
    Better at not meeting SEN – tick.
    Better at catching the bad teachers – who knows – https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/one-teacher-struck-every-other-school-day-new-analysis-reveals
    Better at meeting each individual child’s education as prescribed in law – I don’t think so.
    Better at respecting and promoting children’s rights – I don’t think so.
    What happened to the 170,000 children OFSTED reported as in Inadequate secondary schools a couple of years ago?  What’s the OFSTED number now?

  11. Chloe

    This post misses something very important: Dylan Seabridge was registered as home educated. He was visited by home education officers around a year before his death, according to the report leaked to the BBC, and they were apparently satisfied with his education since no further action was taken.
    Additionally, even though concerns had been raised about his well-being, the council did not involve social services. This might be because those social services were ‘not fit for purpose’, as they were judged to be such when inspected in 2011, but it is not clear exactly who was at fault there. Hopefully the full report into his death will clarify the point, but for now it is important to note that social services SHOULD have investigated after concerns were raised, and for whatever reason didn’t.
    This case has nothing to do with home educators being invisible, and everything about the council trying to pass the buck.

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