Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

MPs back home educating families

Home educating family
Home educators are angry at plans for compulsory registration

Parents who home educate their children should not be forced to register with their local council, MPs have said.

The Commons schools select committee said local authority registration for England's home educators - planned as compulsory - should be voluntary.

However the MPs supported the requirement that parents should provide a statement of their "intended approach" to their child's education.

A review of home education by Graham Badman has drawn angry responses.

The Badman review recommended children be sent to school if parents did not meet certain standards.

It was also controversial in its suggestion that children who are home educated were at greater risk from harm than youngsters who went to school.

The select committee said the lack of information available on the numbers of home schooled children - no-one knows how many there are - made it "unsafe" for the review to have reached such a conclusion.

Earlier this month, more than 70 MPs handed in petitions from opponents of compulsory registration for families who educate their children at home.

Barry Sheerman
Barry Sheerman said councils must work positively with home educators

Under the Badman report's proposals, parents choosing to home educate will have a legal duty to register every year.

Councils will be given the right to refuse registration on safeguarding grounds, meaning parents could be banned from home educating their children if there are fears over safety or the quality of education provided.

While the cross-party committee of MPs backed plans for registration, it said any such scheme should be "light touch".

"In view of the concerns expressed by home educators about compulsory registration, we suggest that registration should be voluntary," the report said.

Under the government's plans, local authority officers will be required to make annual visits to home educating families, to judge the quality of education and check on safeguarding issues.

But the committee warned these visits would not be an improvement to existing safeguarding rules and said officers should not have the right to interview a child away from their parents.

'Coerced de-registration'

The MPs said they were concerned that some local authority officers and home educators had told them some parents were being encouraged to de-register their child from school.

"This was referred to elsewhere as 'coerced de-registration'," the MPs' report said.

"Where local authorities and schools encourage parents to de-register their child from school it is typically as a result of the child's poor school attendance, poor behaviour, and/or poor attainment.

"That schools are held accountable on all three is no doubt part of the explanation for this practice."


Chairman of the committee Barry Sheerman said: "If a balance is to be struck between parental rights and guaranteeing that all children have access to a good education, local authorities must work positively and cooperatively with home educating families.

"It should be the local authorities' responsibility to know who is in school, who is home educated and who is missing.

"This report is not concerned with whether a school or home education is superior.

"Our priority is to see that everything possible is being done so that all children are given the best start in life, are protected from harm and are equipped with the basic skills necessary in order to fulfil their potential and thrive."

Schools Minister Diana Johnson said: "We believe the introduction of compulsory, light touch registration for home-educated children is an important element of the way forward.

"It is only if all home-educated children are registered that local authorities will get the information they need to make accurate assessments about the numbers of home-educated children in their areas, and we agree with the committee that this is essential."

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