Plans for a compulsory register of children educated at home hang on ministers securing extra funding, government has revealed.
The Department for Education has finally published its response to the 2019 consultation – pledging it will introduce a register of children not in school.
Under the plans, councils will also have a new duty to provide support for those children.
But the consultation response admits the roll-out is “subject to securing the necessary resources”.
It will require “completion of the new burdens process” due to additional cost pressures for local governments.
Ministers have repeatedly committed to a register. Despite the delay in response, the consultation still lacks details on the data required from parents and what sanctions would be taken if they do not abide by the rules.
For instance it states while sanctions for non-compliance are favoured, “the specifics … are to be worked through”.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services estimated that 115,542 pupils were electively home educated (EHE) at some point during the 2020-21 academic year, up from 86,335 in 2019-20.
Academies minister Baroness Barran, pictured, said there is a “greater need” for councils to be able to identify such children to “assure themselves about the education being provided”.
What are the plans?
DfE wants local authorities to maintain a list of children not registered at schools, which they say will help safeguard some home-educated children who require support but are not visible to services.
Councils will be told by DfE what data to collect and will be “empowered” to share data from the register with “specified agencies where necessary”, such as a safeguarding concern.
Local authorities would be open to inspection by these agencies, such as Ofsted, and would need to submit the anonymous data to DfE for statistical purposes.
While 96 per cent of responding local authorities agreed with the proposal, 82 per cent of parents and young people opposed it. Councils would have to provide support to families who request it, under the plans.
Parents will also have a duty to tell the council their child was not at a registered school.
Those opposing the plans said it was an “intrusive attack on parents’ rights” and “wasteful of resources”.
But DfE says it will not be “onerous on parents nor an intrusion on their right to educate”.
Proprietors of specified settings providing a “substantial amount” of education to EHE children or children missing education within school hours would also face a duty to supply data.
The aim is to help find children receiving education at illegal schools.
Last year, MPs said there was an “astonishing” lack of data on the number of children educated at home, and called for more powers for councils to check on their progress and welfare.
A landmark High Court ruling also found that a council was within its rights to ask for examples of work to ensure a children’s home education was suitable.