Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
Every child has a fundamental right to an education and it is the duty of the parent of a child of compulsory school age to ensure that suitable education is being provided. Much of a child’s early development takes place entirely in the home environment. As children grow and develop most parents choose to send their children to school, however some elect to educate their child within the home environment.
Welsh Ministers have duties to ensure compliance with the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure. I believe the current legislation surrounding elective home education has shortcomings because there is no legal requirement on the parent to tell a local authority that a child is receiving education at home. In the absence of this requirement, it is very difficult for local authorities to carry out their duties to ensure that children are receiving a suitable education. For these reasons I am proposing the introduction of a compulsory registration and monitoring scheme for home educated children.
The proposals in this consultation are not designed to prevent children from being home educated. They are aimed at ensuring that those children who are home educated receive a suitable education. Home educators are not required to follow a particular curriculum, adopt school-based approaches, nor are their children required to take national exams or assessments. The proposals do not change that position. However, a parent is required by law to ensure that their child receives a full-time education suitable to the child’s age, aptitude, ability and any special educational needs they may have. The information gathered as part of the registration process will allow local authorities to assess that the legal requirement is being fulfilled.
I believe that key to the success of these proposals will be use of existing powers to develop statutory guidance which sets out best practice for local authorities when working with home educating families and encourages local authorities and home educating parents to work together in the best educational interests of the child. I recognise that more clarity is needed as to what a ‘suitable education’ might look like in the context of the variety of educational approaches used in home education. This will be covered in statutory guidance and there will be a separate consultation.
The consultation on registering and monitoring home-based education will run for a period of 12 weeks and responses are requested by 23 November 2012. The consultation document is being issued to local authorities, home educators, organisations representing home educating families and organisations with responsibility for children and young people. It is also open for public comment through the consultation pages of the Welsh Government’s website. In addition, a small number of facilitated workshops will be held to seek the views of children and young people on the proposals.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep Members informed. Should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.