The Conservative chairman of the education select committee has today said he finds it “amazing” that parents who home educate their children do not have to be registered – branding the situation a scandal.
Neil Carmichael was speaking at a fringe event about faith schools in education at the Conservative conference in Manchester this morning.
While talking about free schools, he said: “It’s absolutely right free schools should be created where necessary and appropriate.
“I don’t want to have schools all over the place for every possible interpretation of what’s good for a child or we’ll end up having more home education.
“I find it absolutely amazing people who are home educated are not registered as being home educated. It’s an absolute scandal that that should not be allowed.”
Currently parents who want to teach their children at home need to write to the school’s headteacher to inform them, if they have been offered a place.
If not there is no obligation for the parent to inform anyone, including the local authority.
According to Department for Education advice, the local authority can only make an “informal enquiry” to make sure the child is getting a suitable education.
There are thought to be around 50,000 to 80,000 home education children in the UK.
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Fellow panellist Tim Stanley, a columnist and leader writer for the Daily Telegraph, added: “There is nothing wrong with home schooling – you should have a right to do it.”
He said it was growing in America and was used by parents who are frustrated with the state education sector and taking responsibility for their child’s education by making the decision to go alone. “I admire that,” he added.
In 2009, Ed Balls, then secretary of state for children and families, commissioned the Badman Review to look into home education.
It led to the children, schools and families select committee endorsing plans to set up a voluntary registration scheme for families who chose to home educate.
The proposals were dropped, however, due to a lack of cross party support before the 2010 election.
Home education just isn’t a priority area
Fiona Nicholson, who runs the home education website Edyourself, told Schools Week: “From time to time the notion of making home educators register does come up but it never gains any political traction.
“The same thing happens with the suggestion that home educators should have somewhere to sit their exams, nothing ever comes of it. Home education just isn’t a priority area.”
Updated at 6pm: A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is vital that every child, regardless of their background, gets an excellent education which allows them to realise their potential.
“Schools have a duty to inform councils when a child is being withdrawn for home-schooling. Councils have a legal obligation to intervene if it appears that a child of compulsory school age is not receiving a suitable education. They can also take action against parents if they are not satisfied that the education a child is receiving is suitable.”