At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Health and Care scrutiny committee on Friday, June 2, councillors were given an update on the work being done by the Corporate Safeguarding Board.
Interim director of social services and housing, Nina Davies took the councillors through details of that last board meeting in March when home educated children had been a topic for discussion.
Mrs Davies said: “The board were informed that numbers of electively home educated children has increased to more than 300.”
Mrs Davies explained that some children had not returned to school since the Covid-19 pandemic and that a Welsh Government “resource grant” was also available for families who register for home schooling.
Mrs Davies added that the council is waiting for guidance to be published by the Welsh Government which will put the emphasis on parents to provide “evidence” that “suitable” education is taking place.
“It’s an important shift and we’ll be discussing that further in future board meetings once that guidance has been received,” said Mrs Davies.
Cllr Liz Rijnenberg said: “You’ve noted the numbers but is there any information about the quality of that education.
Cllr Rijnenberg also wanted to know the “age range” and whether issues rise when children are home educated for a while and then go back to the school.
Interim head of children’s social services Sharon Powell said: “There are lots of changes in terms of roles and responsibility of education services tracking electively home educated children, Welsh Government are particularly interested.”
Due to some children experiencing “trauma” from home schooling, Ms Powell explained that there were several layers of operational scrutiny including a regional safeguarding board that look at the matter.
Ms Powell said that the Welsh Government is “very keen” on knowing the numbers so that they can spot “changes in trend.”
Committee chairwoman, Cllr Amanda Jenner said: “We want to be looking at this in a balanced ways because for a lot of children it suits their needs to be home educated.”
She added that more detail is needed to allow the committee to “explore” reasons why parents have chosen to educate their children at home.
Cllr Jenner said: “Such as whether or not children with specific additional needs are in home education because their parents feel their needs are not being addressed at school.
“It’s not just about numbers it’s the reasons why.”
Mrs Davies added that staff from the education department could be brought to a future meeting for an in-depth discussion on the subject.
Corporate safeguarding means not allowing bad treatment and abuse of employees and others that the council would be responsible for.
The board was set up to address historic corporate safeguarding issues at the council following a critical report by Audit Wales which was published in December 2022.
In May the Cabinet received and noted the board’s report which will also be discussed at a meeting of the Governance and Audit committee later this month.