I am sat here wondering, why something that is a legal right of parents is so often considered a risk to a childs welfare? It just seems that there are so many professionals and organisations who consider home education to be an area for concern.
Following interactions with community nurses and hospital staff following an ongoing, diagnosed health issue with one of the children it has come to my attention that it appears to be policy in my local area for all admissions to a&e of home educated children to be referred to social services. The reason I was given for this was due to the lack of contact with school nurses. Firstly I will clarify that I have emailed our local Elective Home Education team to ensure that they are aware of this current policy and to highlight my concerns about it, I have also contacted PALS. Now for me to process my own thoughts.
Firstly, as a mother of a home educated teen, we received a letter from the school nurse with literature about the HPV vaccine when she was due it, this says to me that despite being home educated we clearly are still within the school nurses radar and remit, school nurses are also able to schedule home visits, and so details of admission could still be forwarded on. As well as this, home educated children have access to community and practise nurses and GPs, so any details of admissions can also be forwarded on to those.
Secondly, we fall under the support of the Elective Home Education Team, yes, thats right, THERE IS ONE! An actual employed team who specifically support families who are home educating their children and young people. Their case load is huge, because the community in this county is huge. If every home educated child who passes through A&E is getting a social services referral then that is going to cause potentially a massive drain on local resources in purely paperwork alone, not to mention man hours.
Lastly, home education is not in itself a safeguarding or welfare concern, to treat it as such is nothing other than prejudice and to alter services based on prejudice is discrimination. This is a situation that needs to be addressed. Home educating parents should not be made to feel uncomfortable while getting their children’s illnesses and injuries treated, they are entitled to the same level of support and treatment as any other parents. Likewise, if and when there IS a safeguarding or a welfare concern this should not be solely affected by a child’s schooling.
I hear the same old arguments, but lets look at things shall we? Children in school and below compulsory school age are JUST AS LIKELY to be victims of abuse, they are just as at risk of harm. More so in some ways as they are exposed to teachers prejudices, enforced standardised testing and the stress that goes with that and bullying within the school system.
- The case of Baby P? He was a baby, under compulsory school age, yet failed massively by local authorities.
- Victoria Climbie? She was not home educated, nor was she hidden, she was failed by local authorities.
- Dylan Seabridge? Yes he was deregistered by his parents to home educate him, BUT he was also far from invisible, there were concerns raised and Social Services failed to act. The concern for him was not home education, there were concerns while he was in school, before his parents removed him, it was his welfare!
- Khyra Ishaq? She was removed from school amidst concerns around her welfare, again the welfare concerns were there long before she was removed from school. Multiple agencies failed to act.
- Chadrack Mulo? He attended school, he was absent and this wasnt followed up.
- There are so so many more examples!
These are all utter tragedies, that could have been prevented so easily. But routine referrals for something that is not a welfare concern will not help. All they will do is add to an already too heavy workload, drain already very stretched resources and budgets and take away focus and support that could be directed at a child who really needs it.
Our local authority (I can not speak for other areas) has put a great deal of effort into building positive relationships with home educators. The youth connexions service has secured funding in several of its offices to offer teen group sessions to home educated youngsters to work on various certificates and qualifications, our elective home education advisors are positive about home education, open and understanding about the different approaches and well aware of the EHE guidelines for local authorities. Sports spaces, play spaces, local authority run locations all offer services to home educators across the county. I would hate to see hospitals, a service required and essential for so many, become a place where there are feelings of worry, anxiety and distrust all because some one responsible for their safeguarding policies and procedures failed to inform themselves properly about the laws, the requirements and the support surrounding home education.