23 June 2020
In response to the Welsh Government’s decision to not bring forward new Regulations and Statutory Guidance for elective home education in this Senedd term, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Professor Sally Holland, said:
“Welsh Government should not abandon years of work on urgent changes to protect the rights of home educated children.
“Welsh Government has announced that new Regulations and Statutory Guidance for elective home education will not be brought forward this Senedd term.
“I understand that the Coronavirus pandemic has required unprecedented levels of urgent work across every area of public life but this is not the time to withdraw commitments to the rights of home educated children.
“I have written to the Minister to express my enormous disappointment at this decision; setting out my concerns and a number of questions that I believe need to be answered about how these decisions were reached.
“Years of policy work have taken place, including several public consultations, to bring about much needed change in this area, with new statutory guidance and regulations due to have been implemented this year.
“This change was long overdue and has been the subject of recommendations in my annual report every year since 2015/16. The Government’s response to the tragic death of Dylan Seabridge is inadequate without the introduction of new measures with statutory force; a view shared by the National Independent Safeguarding Board’s commissioned report in 2017 and highlighted by the Child Practice Review for Dylan Seabridge.
“The pandemic is unlikely to disappear any time soon. All we know at present is that some level of disruption will remain in place for the foreseeable future and on this basis it could be several more years before any new laws and guidance around home education might be introduced. And there is ongoing disruption to children’s school attendance, with growing anxieties amongst some children about returning to schools and the potential for the numbers of electively home educated children to rise in the immediate future.
“I have previously indicated that I would use my statutory powers to review the Welsh Government’s exercise of their functions if little progress had been made to better protect the rights of home educated children. I have reiterated this to Government in my letter and await their response to the several questions I have raised about the decision-making that has recently been undertaken and how children’s rights have been considered and upheld as part of this.”