Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Thursday, 11 June 2009 16:24 UK

Home educators made to register

By Alison Smith
BBC News education reporter

Jamie McDonald
Families should be better supported, the government says

Home educating families in England will have to register annually and demonstrate they are providing a suitable education, a report says.

A review of home education recommends children be sent back to school if parents do not meet certain standards.

The government has accepted the findings of the review by Graham Badman, Kent's former education chief.

It had asked him to see if local authorities were effectively monitoring and supporting home educating families.

Mr Badman also looked at whether home education could be a cover for abuse.

His review found that "even acknowledging the variation between authorities, the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of the home educating population".

He recommended local authorities have fully trained staff who are "well-versed" in procedures for safeguarding children.

These could perhaps be teachers or social workers, he suggested.

'Judged'

The compulsory registration scheme will be administered by local councils who will visit parents intending to home educate within one month of registration.



This is not some woolly statement. They will be judged on their plans


Graham Badman



Parents and guardians "must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired outcomes for the child over the following twelve months", the report says.

Mr Badman said he did not wish to be overly prescriptive regarding what constituted a suitable education, and has asked the government to review a statutory definition.

But he said parents would be judged against their education plans.

"This is not some woolly statement," he said.

"They will be judged on their plans. These statements should contain some milestones for children to achieve," he went on.

"For example by the age of eight, I think they should be autonomous learners, able to read.

"I'm calling for further work to be done, but also setting some parameters.

"An education should be broad and balanced and enable children to make choices."

He said parents could be issued with a School Attendance Order if necessary, and that legal powers already existed to compel parents to send their children to school.

Support

Until now, local authorities have been asked to ensure all children receive a suitable education, but have had no statutory authority to be able to monitor those educated at home.

HAVE YOUR SAY
It's a shame that some children do not get to have the interaction of the classroom and other children of their same age
Helen, Leicester

And parents did not have to allow access.

The government was therefore concerned current legislation was not giving councils in England the means to ensure home educated children were safe and receiving an education.

In Scotland the situation differed as local authorities have been encouraged to inspect home educating families at least once a year.

The review also says local authorities must provide much more support to home educating parents.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said: "We will ask local authorities to provide easier access to extra support for those home-educated children who need it - particularly the relatively high proportion of home-educated children who have special educational needs and others who need or want to access services that would otherwise be provided through their school."

Mr Badman said he had been "moved by some of the stories of parents in despair" who had felt they had no choice but to home educate their children with special needs.

'Positive choice'

Some home educators say authorities should stop treating them with suspicion and concentrate on giving them support.

Ann Newstead, spokeswoman for home education group Education Otherwise, said: "If one thing could come out of this review which would mean it was not a complete waste of public money, it would be that the decision to home educate is treated with respect and as a positive choice."

And one home educator contacted by the BBC News website said she would not be prepared to allow monitoring visits from the local authority because she considered it had failed in its duty to provide a suitable education for her son.

Some teaching unions say they feel home educated children do not develop certain skills such as co-operation, conflict management or relationship-building.

Dr John Dunford, from the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "In some situations, where a child has special needs or health issues, home schooling may be the best option.

"For the vast majority of children, being in a school with their peers gives them the best opportunity to develop into well-rounded adults."

The review has not found any evidence that home education was being used specifically to conceal trafficked children, or forced marriages.

Around 20,000 home educated children are currently known to authorities, but estimates put the true figure at between 40,000 and 80,000 children.



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SEE ALSO
'Give us respect, not suspicion'
10 Jun 09 |  Education
Parents given home teaching money
08 Apr 09 |  Essex
Home educators angry at review
19 Jan 09 |  Education
Home learning numbers uncertain
23 Feb 07 |  Education

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