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DfE plans compulsory register of home-schooled children

The government plans to launch a compulsory register for all children not education in school to help identify youngsters in illegal settings who are “vulnerable to dangerous influences”.

The proposal will also help authorities intervene where youngsters receive a solely religious education, or do not receive any education at all. The register will also cover pupils who are home educated.

Under the government’s plans, which will be open for consultation from today until June 24, it will be the responsibility of a parent to register their child if they are not taught in a state-funded school or registered independent school.

Any potential sanctions for parents who do not register their child have yet to be decided, and will be informed by the consultation.

The number of home educated pupils has risen sharply in the past few years. A report from the children’s commissioner in February found there were almost 60,000 home educated children at any one time in England last year, although the precise figure is unknown because they do not currently have to be registered.

Damian Hinds, education secretary, said that as well as children who receive a good education at home, the term “home education” also includes “children who are not getting an education at all, or being educated in illegal schools where they are vulnerable to dangerous influences – the truth is, we just don’t know.”

The plans are likely to prove contentious with home educators who have previously spoken out against plans to enforce more regulation on home education.

But Hinds added: “As a Government, we have a duty to protect our young people and do our utmost to make sure they are prepared for life in modern Britain.

“That’s why this register of children not in school is so important – not to crack down on those dedicated parents doing an admirable job of educating their children in their own homes, but to prevent vulnerable young people from vanishing under the radar.”

The DfE is also proposing a new legal duty requiring local authorities to provide support such as teaching resources or helping to pay for exam fees at the request of parents.

Amanda Spielman, head of Ofsted, said the register will “make it easier to detect and tackle” serious issues including off-rolling and illegal schools.

The government will also publish guidance for local authorities today that clarifies their powers and responsibilities under the current law when they have concerns a child is not receiving a suitable education. That includes the use of school attendance orders – a legal power that already exists, compelling parents to send their child to a registered school.

For parents, the guidance will set out considerations they should make when deciding whether home education is the right choice for them and their child.

But Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “The government needs to go further and change the law to give councils the powers and appropriate funding to enter homes or other premises to check a child’s schooling.”

Later this year the children’s commissioner’s office is due to collect data from all councils in England and publish it school by school to identify which have the highest numbers of pupils being withdrawn in to home education.

 



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7 Comments

  1. Mark Watson

    Genuinely can’t see how any sane and sensible person could object to having a register so that we have more information on where children are.
    But history shows me I should strap in and wait for the avalanche of conspiracy theories and persecution complex points of view from those that believe the Government is “out to get them” …

    • Eve Davies

      It’s a problem if the people in government do not have children’s best interests at heart. Do you think the people who make up our government have our children’s best interests at heart?

  2. Liz Vickerie

    None of us want to believe that some parents do not have the best interests of their children at heart but unfortunately, in a small number of cases, this is true. Most of us accept that child protection structures need to be in place in all organisations to protect the small minority of children with such parents or indeed from other abusive adults in their lives. Children at school have daily opportunities to disclose abuse to their teachers who can also notice concerning behaviours and take action. This is not the case for children educated at home or in unregistered schools. Current legislation makes it very easy for the unscrupulous to conceal children from active view.
    Having worked with children who have been neglected or abused in various ways under the radar as “home educated”, I feel registration is the very least we can do to extend to those children the protections available to those in mainstream settings. I believe that all caring parents who home educate will accept that a little inconvenience and scrutiny in their lives may be necessary to save other children a life of misery and distress.
    Home education can provide rich, rewarding and special opportunities for children including a breadth of social interaction but at worst it can be damaging, limiting and harmful. Most home educaters want to promote best practice and recognise that, as in all communities, there will be some bad practice opporating under the umbrella of this term. Registration will help identify earlier those who need support and protection.

  3. Anne Brown

    At present, schools have a duty to inform LA’s when pupils become home educated. This is why they have been able to identify the suspected off-rolling that has led to the increase in home schooled children. Most LA’s also work with health authorities to identify all children in their area so it’s pretty hard to stay off the radar, and anyone who’s prepared to go to these lengths to do so and is abusing their child is not likely to be fussed by breaking the law by not registering.

    This means that the parents who will be affected are those that the Councils already know about. These will include the ones whose children have been bullied, whose SEN has not been met, or who have been illegally or pre-emptively excluded or off-rolled.

    Now the government wants these parents to be forced to supply information which the LA’s already have to the people who sat back and did nothing while their children were being failed and who have made it clear that this is just the beginning of their plans. These are the same LA’s who routinely misrepresent the legal position regarding home education on their websites and claim powers that they do not have.

    I have no problem with a register, but I think it should be kept centrally and used to track every child’s journey through education. It should then be used to identify what OFSTED describe as the small numbers of areas where offrolling is occurring and identify the areas where large numbers of children with SEND are being home educated because no suitable provision is available for them and then provide the facilities where they are needed. Home education should be an informed choice not a last resort for parents or a dumping ground for the kids the schools and LA’s don’t want because they’re awkward and expensive.

  4. Susan Nulder

    So, the local authorities that already mismanages its social services so badly that children are abused right in front of social workers or by social workers themselves now wants the right to judge good parents who home school. That is the same LAs who also run schools where teachers or school staff do the abusing .

    These people want to expand their scope??
    Perhaps the LAs should gets theirs own scandals and problems sorted first before coming to judge home schoolers.