On one of the Internet lists concerned with home education there is currently anger and anxiety about a poster put up by the local authority in Derbyshire. It is outside, and inside, schools and nurseries. This is what it says:
Education is vital to ensure that all children get a good start in life.
Every year more than 100 children go missing from the Derbyshire
education system. It's important we get them back into schools.
WHY DO CHILDREN GO MISSING FROM SCHOOL?
-Some children simply don't start school - their parents don't enrol
-Other children stop going to school, or don't make the move from
primary to secondary.
-And some families never enrol their children when they move to the
county from elsewhere.
Children not in education might be at risk of harm we want to ensure
that they are safe.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE CONCERNED
If you think a child is missing out on school call us in confidence on
We can contact the family and help get their child into school.
As usual, some home educators are outraged and view the thing as an attack on their lifestyle. As usual, they are quite wrong.
Children Missing from education or CME is an attempt to find children who are not attending school or receiving an adequate education elsewhere. According to the report Out of School, which Ofsted produced in 2004, there might be ten thousand such children in this country. Some of these are children who are kept at home in order to work or look after the home. They are at increased risk of abuse and involvement in crime. Others are teenagers who have simply dropped out of school. The parents move to another area perhaps and the child is not registered at a new school. Some vanish during the transition from primary to secondary. Reading the outrage among some home educating parents about the CME initiative, one rather gets the feeling that they do not really believe in the existence of such children. They see it all as part of a sinister plot by Ofsted and the local authorities to force home educated children to go to school. Last year, I gave a couple of examples of the sort of case that CME is actually designed to detect and since there are many new readers here, I think I should describe one of these cases again. The target for CME is not home education at all. It is children missing from education. In order to identify these children it might be necessary to visit the homes of children who are not at school in order to see whether or not they are being educated. There is strong opposition to such visits by some home educating parents, but they are a vital tool in rescuing vulnerable young children.
This case is from the London Borough of Waltham Forest. An eleven year old boy left primary school and there was no record of his being registered with a secondary school. The family were Sylhetis and the suspicion was that they had returned to their country of origin. An Education Welfare Officer was sent to the house after a number of letters had remained unanswered. There was no reply when he knocked on the door, but he could hear activity and voices round the back. He wandered round there and discovered a garage/workshop which had been converted into a small factory. The eleven year old boy for whom he was searching was there, evidently running errands for those operating the machines. The place was an absolute nightmare and was clearing being run without any regard to the Factory Acts or other relevant regulations. As far as could be established, the child's mother had returned to Bangladesh and left the boy behind. His father was using him to both keep house and also act as errand boy for his business. It did not take much to persuade the father that he would be prosecuted unless his son was sent to school. In this case, there was a happy outcome.
It is cases such as this which prompt unannounced visits from EWOs. The point to consider here is that had the father sent a letter stating that he was educating his son at home and did not wish to accept a visit, then the child could very well have continued being denied an education. Some home educating parents are adamant that all that should be required for them is to state that they are providing an education and that local authority interest in them and their children should stop at once. If that policy were to be generally adopted, then it would leave many children at hazard. I have a fund of anecdotes like the one above, all involving children who were not at school but were not receiving an education elsewhere. Without conducting enquiries, some of which might be thought of as intrusive, it would be impossible for the local authority to discover that the children were not being educated. This is the purpose of CME; not the persecution of home educators. If some home educating parents refuse to answer questions or allow visits, then it is very hard to distinguish them from the parents of children, like the one above, who are not receiving an adequate education. It is then not at all unlikely that they might receive an unannounced visit from an EWO. In such a case, they will have only themselves to blame.