The Guardian view on home-schooling in England: a register is needed

The killing of 18-year-old Jordan Burling was needless and preventable, a judge told his mother and grandmother on sentencing them for his manslaughter last week. Burling died from bronchopneumonia following a heart attack in 2016, but the underlying cause was malnutrition and neglect so extreme that it is painful to imagine. The Guardian reports

Defence lawyers stressed that Mr Burling was an adult, who had made what his grandmother Denise Cranston called a “choice” not to see a doctor. But he was a boy of 12 when his mother told the council she would home-school him. A safeguarding review will now examine how the authorities lost sight of Mr Burling, who had taken no exams nor gained any qualifications, and make recommendations as to how such a disaster can be avoided in future. But there is no reason for the government to wait before acting on behalf of other home-schooled children, of whom there are thought to be around 50,000 in the UK – a number that has increased sharply in recent years.

There is no evidence that being home-schooled leads to an increased risk of abuse or neglect. The government believes most home educators do a good job. But reviews following the death from scurvy of eight-year-old Dylan Seabridge in Wales in 2011, and of Khyra Ishaq, who was starved to death aged seven in Birmingham in 2008, highlighted home-schooling as a factor. Concerns around safeguarding, and what happens when children disappear from the view of professionals who might otherwise support them, are one reason why the government is seeking to tighten and clarify the rules surrounding home education.

The key proposal is a mandatory register of home-educated children, along with increased monitoring and support from local authorities.

It is strongly to be hoped that home-schooling parents and groups, as well as local authorities, will support these changes, which are similar to measures already introduced in Wales. Councils must be equipped and resourced to carry out their duty to ensure all children receive a “suitable” education.

Read the full article The Guardian view on home-schooling in England: a register is needed

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