Children's charity calls for creation of children-not-in-school register in wake of Northampton neglect case

The NSPCC wants the government to move ahead with proposals to create a definitive list of all children not in school.

By Sarah Ward
Friday, 31st January 2020, 2:28 pm
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 2:30 pm
The boy's stepfather was jailed for seven years last summer.
The boy's stepfather was jailed for seven years last summer.

A leading children’s charity has called on the government to move forward with proposals to create a register of children not in school following a serious case review involving a Northamptonshire boy who was removed from education and subject to extreme abuse.The review into the case of the unnamed boy recommended that the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children’s Partnership carry out a review of elective home education and the issue of ‘hidden children’.

The boy was taken out of school after concerns were raised about his behaviour. He was then kept in a locked room beaten, starved and neglected by his stepfather and mother. He was only saved from his torturous ordeal after a sibling alerted teachers to what was happening to her brother.

Northamptonshire children’s services, which are rated as inadequate by Oftsed, were criticised for deciding there were no concerns about the child’s welfare when initial referrals were made when he was at school.Now the NSPCC is calling on the government to introduce the register of all children who are home-schooled.

The government consulted on the matter in spring 2019, but since then little has moved forward.

An NSPCC spokesman said: “It’s clear from the review that children’s services could have done far more to protect a child who was left to suffer extreme neglect and abuse for years.

“Every family has the right to provide an education for their child at home, but we cannot allow this to be used as a cover for abuse and neglect.

“To prevent increased risk of children becoming invisible to professionals we urgently need Government to introduce a register of ‘children not in school’ that was consulted on last year – but from which we have seen no further action.”

Despite being removed from school the boy was never home-schooled. His stepfather did not fill in the forms and despite the local education authority attempting to get the paperwork there is no statutory responsibility to have it. The serious case review also said there are limited sanctions for parents who do not comply with education authority requests to visit the home.

According to latest figures published in December 1,054 pupils in Northamptonshire are home-schooled. Earlier this week cabinet member for children’s services Fiona Baker said the council has no powers to stop parents home educating but would lobby government for a change.At a health and wellbeing board meeting last summer senior children’s officer Sharon Muldoon said 130 home-schooled children in Northamptonshire were already known to social services.