Home Home School Parents in England who fail to register home schooling could face sanctions | Home schooling

Parents in England who fail to register home schooling could face sanctions | Home schooling

Parents in England who fail to register home schooling could face sanctions | Home schooling

Parents who choose to home educate but fail to register their child with the local authority in England are likely to face sanctions, under government plans for a compulsory national register of children who are not in school.

Under the proposals, parents who educate their child at home will face a new legal duty to supply information to a council-maintained register. There will also be a duty on local authorities to support families educating their children at home, offering general advice and examination support if requested.

Local authorities and child protection charities have long pushed for a mandatory national register of children not in school to help keep track of them, ensure they are receiving a suitable education, and ensure support and safeguarding for vulnerable children.

The pressure has mounted during the course of the pandemic, with increased numbers of pupils being taken out of school for elective home education and high absence rates in England.

In November the Association of Directors of Children’s Services estimated that 115,542 children were home educated in 2020-21, a 34% increase on the previous year. The true figure could be far higher; the lack of a register makes it impossible to know.

Ministers have promised to bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity, but the government’s response on Thursday to a 2019 public consultation on the issue said the rollout was still “subject to securing the necessary resources”, and details of what penalties parents may face have yet to be determined.

Responses to the consultation suggest there is likely to be fierce opposition from home education devotees. Among the 4,800 responses to the proposal that local authorities should be obliged to maintain a register of children who are not in school, 96% of local authorities agreed, while 82% of parents and young people disagreed.

Those opposed to the register and the associated duty on home-educating parents to provide information said it was an invasive and intrusive attack on parents’ rights and a waste of resources, while maintaining that education is a parental responsibility.

Victoria Campbell, of the Portsmouth Home Education Group, said: “We are not surprised that the government will be pushing ahead with the register, even though there is no evidence to support its stated aim of protecting children. We also have concerns over it being abused by local authorities who already have a tendency to overstep their remit, causing damage to families in the process.”

The Department for Education said: “The vast majority of home education is already done well but, particularly in light of the pandemic contributing to a rise in children not being educated in school, the government will support local authorities to make sure they know where every child is being educated, that it is of the right quality and that support is offered to home-educating families.”

Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, welcomed the proposal. She said: “The register of children not in school is vital in making sure that we are able to keep children safe and engaged, wherever they are learning.”