Rationale for introducing registration
48. The central recommendation of the Badman Report
is that the Department introduce compulsory annual registration
for home educating families (recommendation 1). The purpose of
this recommendation is twofold: to assist local authorities in
identifying home educating families; and to provide a basis for
local authority monitoring of home education.
49. In response, the Department has proposed that
every home educated child of compulsory school age should be registered
with the local authority in which the child is resident. It has
indicated that the personal information required for registration
would be minimalfor example, the child's name, date of
birth, address, the same information for adults with parental
responsibility, and the location where education is conducted
if not in the home. Added to this would be the requirement to
submit a statement of educational approach. Registration would
be for one year.
These proposals are reflected in the Children, Schools and Families
50. Under section 436A of the Education Act 1996
(inserted by section 4 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006)
local authorities have a duty to:
make arrangements to enable them to establish
(so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children
in their area who are of compulsory school age but
(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and
(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise
than at a school.
This duty does not apply to home educated children
who are receiving suitable education. Yet, as the Department's
guidelines on home education outline, under section 437(1) of
the Education Act 1996, local authorities have a duty to intervene
if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education
for their child.
51. In order to fulfil the duty under section 437(1)
local authorities need to be able to identify home educated children
and to assess the education that these children are receiving.
At present, however, local authorities do not have a guaranteed
means of doing either.
52. It is the case that in order to home educate
a child who was previously on the roll of a school the parent
must officially de-register the child from the school, which must
then inform the local authority.
Even for these families, though, any subsequent contact that they
have with the local authority is entirely at their discretion.
Parents of children who have never attended school are not required
to inform the local authority if they decide to home educate their
child. The same is true when a child leaves the school system
at the point of transferring from nursery to primary school or
from primary school to secondary school. Accordingly, local authorities
are reliant on families making themselves known to the authority
or, failing that, on identifying children by cross-referencing
various databases and lists, such as those based on health records.
Extrapolation from a sample of nine local authorities suggests
that there are around 16,000 home educated children known to local
authoritiesthe Department puts the figure at 20,000.
This compares to estimates of the total number of home educated
children in England, which range from 45,000, to 80,000, to 150,000.
53. The Children, Schools and Families Bill proposes
the following amendments in relation to section 436A of the Education
(1) A local authority in England must make arrangements
to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so)
the identities of children in their area who are
(a) of compulsory school age, and
(b) within subsection (2) or (3).
(2) A child within this subsection is one who is
not a home-educated child, but
(a) is not a registered pupil at a school, and
(b) is not receiving suitable education otherwise
than at a school.
(3) A child within this subsection is one who
(a) is a home-educated child, but
(b) is not registered on the authority's home education
The principle of registration
54. As Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children's Commissioner,
pointed out, the estimate of 80,000 is the equivalent of the child
population of "a fair sized local authority". In her
view it was "not acceptable that the state should not be
able to vouch for the education of so many of its citizens".
The majority of the local authority representatives who we heard
from in the course of our inquiry were clear that they currently
could not account in any secure way for all of the home educated
children in their area. Some noted their unease at children being
'under the radar' in this way. On that basis, they suggested that
they would welcome improved arrangements in this regard. Peter
Traves, representing the Association of Directors of Children's
Legislation should require people to register
the fact that they have chosen [to home educate], because, after
all, in relation to any other form of education, we would know
where that child is.
We do need to know where children
are and we need the power to require people to let us know.
Equally, local authority representatives pointed
out that they could better plan services for home educating families
if they had a stronger sense of the number of children involved.
This point is particularly pertinent given the Department's wish,
in line with the recommendations in the Badman Report, to improve
support and services for home educating families.
55. By contrast, those home educators who contacted
us rejected the notion that they should be required to register.
They began by questioning whether registration would solve the
problem of the 'hard cases'. Jane Lowe, a trustee of the Home
Education Advisory Service, remarked:
if any parent is suitably evil or deranged
that they want to abduct and abuse a child, they are not going
to take any notice of the minor offence of not registering themselves
with the local authority as a home educator
I think it is
going to miss the point.
56. More generally, home educators saw the proposed
registration system as more akin to licensing. Some resented the
prospect of being asked to apply for a licence to do something
that they have a statutory duty to doeducate their child.
They resented even more the potential for otherwise law-abiding
parents to be criminalised should they choose not to registerthough
the Children, Schools and Families Bill does not make failure
to register a criminal offence. Others questioned the implications
that such a licensing system had for the respective roles of parents
and local authorities, suggesting that it effectively transferred
responsibility for a child's education from the parent to the
local authority. Many pointed to the wider ramifications of this
for all families in terms of the threat to what some described
as 'parental sovereignty'.
However, the Education Act 1996 makes clear that the right to
home educate is not a fundamental one, but one conditional on
parents providing an "efficient" and "suitable"
education for their child. The Act also makes clear that it is
for local authorities to determine what is a suitable education.
The need for a separate registration
57. Home educators also questioned the need for a
home education-specific registration system on grounds of duplication.
Many pointed out that local authorities already have access to
a range of databases, several of which, they claimed, could be
used to identify children who were not registered with a school,
some of whom would be home educated. They cited the electoral
roll, council tax records, general practitioner and health visitor
records, child benefit claims and, in particular, ContactPoint.
As one set of home educating parents remarked:
We have no objection to the Government knowing
who is or is not being home schooled. In fact such data could
be beneficial in numerous ways, but the ContactPoint system already
has a record of educational setting, and that should be used instead
of spending money on a registry which would either be superfluous
or unduly invasive.
58. Just one of the local authority officers with
whom we met was confident that she knew of the majority of home
educating families in her area. Her authority used its 'children
rising age five' lists and secondary school applications lists
for this purpose.
59. We suggested to the Department that such arrangements
might be utilised across local authorities to better enable them
to identify home educated children. It responded that while this
approach might be feasible in smaller local authorities with relatively
stable populations and few flows of pupils across authority boundaries,
it would not be so for authorities with a mobile population, nor
for those where the population was likely to register with schools
and doctors outside the authority area, as is the case in London
and other large metropolitan areas.
60. We also pursued with the Department the potential
role of ContactPoint as a means of identifying home educated children.
The Department noted that schools have a duty to provide information
for ContactPoint on a child's place of education. In the case
of maintained schools this information is gathered automatically
through the national data collection. This would enable local
authorities to run a 'children missing education' report and to
investigate cases where there was no education setting recorded.
The Department argued that it would be more efficient and effective
for home educating parents to tell local authorities that they
were home educating their children than for authorities to approach
families with no known education setting on the basis that their
children may be missing education. It suggested that this would
"probably be more costly than a system of registration",
and that the requirement for parents to register would reduce
delays in local authorities becoming aware of home educating families
who moved from one authority to another or who decided to adopt
home education at the point that their child would otherwise have
entered or changed school.
61. Asked if the proposals in the Children, Schools
and Families Bill relating to the monitoring of home educated
children were dependent on a new system of registration, rather
than other existing databases serving that purpose, the Department
responded as follows:
Home Education registration involves more than
just providing a name and address. In particular, it will require
home educating families to provide information about their approach
to home education, and for records to be kept of monitoring arrangements.
ContactPoint does not hold any case information.
62. In our view it is unacceptable that local
authorities do not know accurately how many children of school
age in their area are in school, are being home educated or are
otherwise not in school. The main argument for a registration
scheme, as we see it, is to help to provide this information.
Given that existing databases could not provide an equally efficient
and secure means to that end, we believe that a separate registration
system for home educating families should be put in place. This
would assist local authorities in knowing which children were
in school, which were home educated, and which were not known
to be in either category. The Government should review and, where
necessary, strengthen the duties on local authorities, Her Majesty's
Revenue and Customs (as the holder of records of eligibility for
child benefit) and other agenciesincluding NHS trusts and
police forcesto share information relevant to this task.
63. We believe that registration would encourage
local authorities and home educators to recognise that it is to
their mutual advantage to have a clear record of children who
are being home educated. Any registration system for home educating
families should be light touch. In view of the concerns expressed
by home educators about compulsory registration, we suggest that
registration should be voluntary. Local authorities should publicise
the benefits of registration, including the resources that will
be available to registered families. The success of a system of
voluntary registration (combined with improved information sharing)
should be reviewed after two years. If it is found not to have
met expectationsin terms of assisting local authorities
in identifying and working with the families of children who are
being home educated and those of children not otherwise at schoolwe
believe that a system of compulsory registration would need to
60 Ev 3, paragraph 17 (DCSF) Back
DCSF consultation, Home Education-registration and monitoring
proposals, 11 June 2009; Children, Schools and Families Bill,
schedule 1, section 19A [Bill 8 (2009-10)]. Back
DCSF, Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities,
2007, paragraphs 2.6-2.7. See also, DCSF, Revised statutory guidance
for local authorities in England to identify children not receiving
a suitable education, January 2009, paragraph 87. Back
Ev 2, paragraph 4 (DCSF) Back
The Pupil Registration Regulations apply to all schools: maintained;
independent; Pupil Referral Units; special schools; City Technology
Colleges; and Academies. Back
Hopwood et al, The Prevalence of Home Education in England: a
feasibility study, DCSF Research Report, 2007, pp 21-22; Children,
Schools and Families Bill-an Impact Assessment prepared by the
Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Ministry
of Justice, for introduction into the House of Commons, November
2009, pp 83-90; Badman Report, paragraph 6.1. Back
Hopwood et al, The Prevalence of Home Education in England: a
feasibility study, DCSF Research Report, 2007, paragraph 1.8. Back
Schedule 1, paragraph 3 Back
EHE 29, paragraph 7 Back
Q 88 Back
Q 29 (Diana Johnson). See also, Q 127 (Peter Traves) Back
Q 49 Back
Ev 48, paragraph 5.6. (Home Education Centre, Somerset); EHE
8 (Carol Mathews and Nick Weir); EHE 9, paragraph 7 (Alexandra
Barnes); EHE 11, paragraph 4 (Mark Dennison); EHE 20, paragraph
2.1 (Bristol Home Educators' Forum); EHE 38, paragraph 11 (Andrew
and Janet Shrimpton); EHE 60, section 2 (members of a Christian
home educating group); EHE 64, paragraph 4.8 (Isle of Wight Learning
Zone); EHE 72, paragraph 4.2 (Mr R Barns); EHE 78, paragraph 1c,
2a (Group of Muslim home educators); EHE 81 (Ruth Jump); EHE 90,
section 7 (Home Education Tyne and Wear); EHE 100, paragraph 6.4
(HERA-Home Education Research Association); EHE 102, section 9
(Cumbrian Home Educators); EHE 106, section 6 (Local home education
contact in Cumbria); EHE 108, section 2 (West London Home Educators);
EHE 118, paragraph 2.1 (a home educated student); EHE 127, paragraph
5.3.3 (Home Educated Youth Council); EHE 150 (group of Catholic
home educators); EHE 169, paragraph 10.1 (Sheffield Home Educators'
Network); Annex 1 Back
See, Monk, D., 'Regulating home education: negotiating standards,
anomalies and rights', Child and Family Law Quarterly, May 2009. Back
Ev 47, paragraph 5.4 (Home Education Centre, Somerset); EHE 11,
paragraph 4 (Mark Dennison); EHE 20, paragraph 1.1 (Bristol Home
Educators' Forum); EHE 33, paragraph 4.1 (Home Service); EHE 145,
paragraph 3.1 (Louisa Bird); EHE 169, paragraph 2.6 (Sheffield
Home Educators' Network); EHE 174, paragraph 7 (Mary MacIntyre);
Annex 1. ContactPoint contains basic information on all children
in England. Initially established in 18 'early adopter' local
authorities, it is due to be rolled out nationally. Back
EHE 173 (Paul and Julia Kielstra) Back
Annex 2 Back
Ev 105 Back
Ev 105 Back