Council leader calls for national review after rapid rise of home schooling in Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire County Council leader Matt Golby has called for an investigation to be held into home schooling at the highest levels of governmentNorthamptonshire County Council leader Matt Golby has called for an investigation to be held into home schooling at the highest levels of government
Northamptonshire County Council leader Matt Golby has called for an investigation to be held into home schooling at the highest levels of government | jpimedia
The leader of Northamptonshire County Council has backed calls for a national review on elective home education, after writing to the Local Government Association.

The county council was scolded in a recent serious case review where a stepfather was able to remove his child from school and hide him from professional services for more than a year, during which time the boy was subjected to ‘extreme’ child abuse.

But the cabinet member for education, Councillor Fiona Baker, said the county council had ‘no power’ to interfere, and doubled down that assertion during this week’s cabinet meeting (Tuesday March 10).

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And she was supported by council leader Matt Golby. Speaking during the meeting at One Angel Square, he said: “I know Councillor Baker has been talking to our MPs. We’ve had some good feedback from a couple of our MPs and we wrote to the chair of the LGA to say this needs a national review and we would be happy to supply some of the stats and some of the learnings we’ve discovered here, because the numbers here are proportionately high.

Cabinet member for education Councillor Fiona Baker has written to the Local Government Association alongside Councillor GolbyCabinet member for education Councillor Fiona Baker has written to the Local Government Association alongside Councillor Golby
Cabinet member for education Councillor Fiona Baker has written to the Local Government Association alongside Councillor Golby | jpimedia

“Obviously we need to keep pressure on our own department to do as much as they can and keep this as something that needs to be raised at the highest levels of government.”

The latest corporate report revealed that the number of electively home educated children in the county currently stands at 1,054, a rise of 51 from the previous quarter and a substantial rise on the March 2017 figure of 734.

Last year, the then chairman of the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Board, Keith Makin, told the county’s health and wellbeing forum that children were being ‘hidden’ and that he had ‘strong concerns’ about the rapid rise in the number of children being schooled at home.

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Councillor Baker said she had been contacting MPs over the issue for more than a year. She added: “I do fully appreciate that there is a percentage of children who are beautifully educated at home by responsible people.

Labour councillor Anjona Roy said young lives at stake unless things changedLabour councillor Anjona Roy said young lives at stake unless things changed
Labour councillor Anjona Roy said young lives at stake unless things changed | jpimedia

“But unfortunately there’s a large number of children who are not in that position, and currently the county council education service has no powers at all to interfere with children being electively home educated. I have written with the leader to the Department for Education and the NLGA to voice our concern and I hope they will look into this with a matter of urgency.”

Opposition councillor Anjona Roy, of the Labour Party, questioned what was being done and also raised concerns about the ‘disproportionate’ levels of the children who were from black and mixed ethnicity backgrounds. She also said there was ‘a link’ between the growing number of permanent exclusions and the numbers of electively home educated children.

She asked: “What in particular is being done in respect of reducing that? Also, given that the serious case review did highlight the issue around electively home educated children and the issues around risk, what other things are we doing to promote best practice? I hear that we have no powers to do anything, but are there actions we can do given that children’s lives are at stake?

Responding to that question, Councillor Golby said he was ‘satisfied we are doing as much as we can’.