The Review of Elective Home Education - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents


Annex A

COMMENTS OF PROFESSOR EILEEN MUNRO

  A1  A pervasive problem in the section on safeguarding (pp28-34) is that the author wanders between talking of safeguarding and child protection without keeping a clear distinction between them. Safeguarding children relates to ensuring that all children fulfil their potential and covers all aspects of their welfare, including their education. Child protection refers to the specific problem of children suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm from abuse or neglect, usually at the hands of their carers. This means that all the recommendations have some plausibility in relation to child protection concerns but are phrased in terms of safeguarding where they seem poorly thought through and overly intrusive.

  A2  One result of this muddled thinking is that it fails to consider what current good practice already achieves in child protection. Recommendation 24, for example, wants LAs to be able to deny home education for safeguarding reasons. This seems unjustifiable. This could exclude all low income families since poverty is the single biggest factor harming children's development. Nor would it be clear how attendance at a school would counteract the harmful factors. However, if this recommendation were re-phrased in terms of child protection then current good practice would already be active in dealing with this. A child on the CP register, for instance, would have the move to home education scrutinised and, if it raised concern, either the parents would be strongly advised against it or legal powers would be sought to either prevent or supervise such a move.

  A3  Recommendation 23 would lead to considerable intrusion into the privacy of family members and is poorly thought through. When recommending new data sharing, one needs to consider the signal to noise ratio—how much of this data will add value to the practice of the receiver in safeguarding children and how much will be irrelevant but causing problems through taking up time that could be better spent. The author does not appear to have made any estimation of such statistics but my suspicion is that it would lead to considerably more noise than signal and, in fact, create risk of harm by obscuring the few "signals" (of true concern) among a storm of noise (irrelevant data).

  A4  Recommendation 22 that those monitoring home education should have some knowledge of child maltreatment and the child protection system is sensible and I am shocked that it is not already the case. Basic knowledge is necessary although the staff might then refer on to a more experienced colleague.

  A5  Overall, I think this report confuses two overlapping agendas—to promote the welfare of children and protect them from maltreatment. It also overlooks or underestimates two current sources of safety for children: the current child protection system and the importance of community support and monitoring of home education.






 
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