It has today launched a consultation on its plans, which would see parents made responsible for registering children who are not attending a state or registered private school, including those being taught at home.
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Estimates suggest almost 60,000 children are educated at home, a figure that is thought to be rising by around a quarter every year, according to the DfE.
However, with no mandatory registration system for families choosing to educate their children at home, there are no official figures.
The Government said a register of children not in school will help local councils identify and intervene in situations:
- where the standard of education may not be good enough
- where children are at risk of harm
- where children are receiving a solely religious education
- where children are attending an unregistered school
- where children are not receiving an education at all.
The DfE is also consulting on proposals requiring local authorities to provide support such as teaching resources or help with exam costs to parents who choose to educate their children at home.
The consultation follows a call for evidence carried out last year which collected views from parents and local authorities.
Education secretary Damian Hinds said, ‘The term “home education” has now acquired a much broader meaning than it used to. It is now a catch-all phrase, used to refer to all children not in a registered school. So whilst this does include those actually getting a really good education at home, it 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.’
Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, added, ‘Ofsted has long had concerns about the increasing numbers of school-age children not attending a registered school, many of whom may not be receiving a high quality education or being kept safe. We are especially concerned about children “off-rolled” from schools, and those in illegal schools. The new register will make it easier to detect and tackle these serious problems.’
However, the Government faced a number of calls to provide more funding for councils and schools to make any proposed register feasible.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said, ‘The most effective way for any register to work for the most vulnerable pupils would be for local authorities to manage and lead on the list, but only if they are properly funded and resourced to do so.
‘Damian Hinds also needs to deal with the school funding crisis that is seriously affecting the ability of schools and colleges to deal with children of all abilities and additional needs. Resources, support and funding are essential to this both within and outside of school. We also need an accountability system that does not penalise schools who are working with children with complex needs.’
Chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, Anntoinette Bramble, called on the Government to change the law to give councils powers and funding to enter homes or other premises to check a child’s schooling.
‘Councils fully support the rights of parents to educate their children in the best way that they see fit, and the vast majority of parents who home educate their children do a fantastic job, and work well with their local council to make sure that a good education is being provided.
‘For the minority of children where this is not the case, councils need to be able to check a child’s schooling, to make sure they are being taught a suitable and appropriate education in a safe environment.’
Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for education, added, ‘Knowing when and where children are being home educated is an important step in ensuring that they are safe and receiving an education.
‘However, there are serious questions to answer on why the number of children being home educated has surged in recent years, as the first cuts to school budgets in a generation have made it harder for schools to support children with complex needs.
‘This announcement is simply meaningless without giving councils the resources they need to deliver it, but funding for children’s services has been slashed and the Government is not offering any new money.’
- The consultation will be open for 12 weeks until Monday 24 June. To take part click here