The Review of Elective Home Education - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents


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.[60]

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 minimal—for 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.[61] These proposals are reflected in the Children, Schools and Families Bill.

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.[62]

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.[63]

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.[64] 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 authorities—the Department puts the figure at 20,000.[65] 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.[66]

53. The Children, Schools and Families Bill proposes the following amendments in relation to section 436A of the Education Act 1996:

    (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 register.[67]

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".[68] 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 Services, commented:

    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.[69]

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.[70]

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.[71]

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 do—educate their child. They resented even more the potential for otherwise law-abiding parents to be criminalised should they choose not to register—though 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'.[72] 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.[73]

The need for a separate registration system

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.[74] 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.[75]

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.[76]

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.[77]

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.[78]


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 agencies—including NHS trusts and police forces—to 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 expectations—in 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 school—we believe that a system of compulsory registration would need to be introduced.

60   Ev 3, paragraph 17 (DCSF) Back

61   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

62   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

63   Ev 2, paragraph 4 (DCSF) Back

64   The Pupil Registration Regulations apply to all schools: maintained; independent; Pupil Referral Units; special schools; City Technology Colleges; and Academies. Back

65   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

66   Hopwood et al, The Prevalence of Home Education in England: a feasibility study, DCSF Research Report, 2007, paragraph 1.8. Back

67   Schedule 1, paragraph 3 Back

68   EHE 29, paragraph 7  Back

69   Q 88  Back

70   Q 29 (Diana Johnson). See also, Q 127 (Peter Traves) Back

71   Q 49  Back

72   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

73   See, Monk, D., 'Regulating home education: negotiating standards, anomalies and rights', Child and Family Law Quarterly, May 2009. Back

74   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

75   EHE 173 (Paul and Julia Kielstra) Back

76   Annex 2 Back

77   Ev 105  Back

78   Ev 105 Back

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