Interesting case heard at Plymouth Crown Court this week. A girl whose parents have been noticed a number of times by social services was withdrawn from school at the age of thirteen in order to be home educated. Before this happened, her brother had been taken into care and later adopted due to abuse by the father. The girl herself had been seen at school with a bite mark on her arm and had told social workers that she wanted to get away from her father so she could be safe. She was briefly sent to a foster family, but had to leave because of her sexualised behaviour.
By the age of fourteen, after she had been removed from school, her parents were sexually abusing her regularly and had photographed her pretending to have sex with a dog and also groping her own mother. One need hardly add that there had been no home visits to the family by the local authority after she had been deregistered from school. The case may be seen here;
There are of course two ways of looking at this. Some home educating parents will no doubt take the line that since the child was already known to social services, they are at fault for not taking more of an interest in her after she had been withdrawn from school. Another point of view would be that this might be the tip of an unsavoury iceberg and that there may be many other children in this position whose parents have just been a little more cunning about hiding their activities from the local authority. I have a strong suspicion that if this girl's family had been required to discuss sensibly their plans with the local authority and explain their educational approach, then this would probably have discouraged them from taking the child out of school. I also think that the prospect of regular visits from anybody might have caused them to scale back on their abusive activities a little.
Although, as in the Khyra Ishaq case, we see that social services have fallen down on the job, this case does show once again the important role of schools as a first line of defence in spotting abuse. It was teachers who saw bruises on her arm and then later a bite mark. This is one safeguarding advantage of school for the average child. Obviously, with an election only a week away, a case like this is not attracting as much publicity as it deserves. I have a suspicion though that it will not take a new Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families very long in office before he or she decides that the whole business of home education needs to be looked at again.