Children’s Commissioner calls for compulsory home education register

The Children’s Commissioner is calling for a compulsory home education register as research reveals some children are completely “off the grid”.

A report published by Anne Longfield suggests almost 60,000 children in England were home-schooled at any one time in 2018.

However, it adds it could be as many as 80,000 at some point in the year.

Some children are off the grid and completely out of sight of local authorities, with ADCS/Dispatches research showing 93% of councils say they are not aware of all the children in their area who are home educated.

According to the date, when local authorities offer to visit a home educating family, in 28% of cases the family refuses.

The report, published on Monday by Ms Longfield (pictured), the Children’s Commissioner for England, accompanies a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, Skipping School: Britain’s Invisible Kids.

The number of children who are known by councils to be home educated was 27% higher in 2018 than in 2017, rising by 20% in each of the last five years, doubling since 2013/14.

According to the report, many children who are home educated are off-rolled, with Children’s Commissioner analysis suggesting a small number of schools could be responsible.

New data collected by the Children’s Commissioner’s Office from 11 local areas shows a 48% rise in the number of children withdrawn from schools into home education between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

The research found that 92% of councils say they do not have enough powers to assure the safety of home-educated children.

Following the findings of the research, Ms Longfield is calling for a compulsory home education register.

She is also calling for stronger measures to tackle off-rolling, more support for families who home educate, a greater oversight of home schooled children and decisive action against unregistered schools.

Ms Longfield said: “Our investigations have revealed thousands of children are ‘off the grid’ because they are being home schooled.

“The numbers are rocketing and no-one knows how they are doing academically or even if they’re safe.

“Many are being off-rolled.

“It also seems that a relatively small number of schools may be responsible for this sharp rise in children leaving school for ‘home education’ in this way.

“Many parents who make a philosophical decision to home educate provide their children with a high quality education.

“But there are many other families who have ended up home educating for other reasons, and are struggling to cope.

“Many of these children are very vulnerable, have special educational needs, or are unable to cope with a ‘one size fits all’ school system.”

She added: “We need to know who these children are, where they are, whether they are safe and if they are getting the education they need to succeed in life.

“There is a clear case for the Government to introduce a compulsory register for all home-educated children, without delay.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Unofficial exclusions are illegal regardless of whether they are done with the agreement of parents or carers and regardless of the age of the pupil. Where a pupil is asked to leave the school, the formal exclusions process set out in the school exclusion guidance must be followed.

“Where children are being home educated, we know that in the vast majority of cases parents are doing an excellent job.

“We also know, however, that in a very small minority of cases children are not receiving the standard of education they should be, which is why last year we ran a call for evidence on proposals to introduce a register, as well monitoring of provision and support for home educators. We will respond to that in due course.”

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils have long-called for the powers and appropriate funding to enter homes or other premises to check a child’s schooling, and make sure they aren’t being taught in unsuitable or dangerous environments.

“Placing a legal duty on parents to register home-schooled children with their local authority would also help councils to monitor how children are being educated and prevent them from disappearing from the oversight of services designed to keep them safe.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Russell Sach / PA Wire.