National register needed to prevent home educated children missing out on education, MPs say

27 Jul 2021 01:09 PM

More data must be collected and a national register must be established to ensure all children out of school get a suitable education, MPs say today. This follows acknowledgement from the DfE that there is ‘considerable evidence’ that many home-educated children1 are missing out on a proper education.

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The law states that parents have a duty to ensure that their children receive a suitable education, whether that be in school or ‘otherwise.’ However, the Education Committee’s report Strengthening Home Education highlights how an ‘astonishing’ lack of data means the Government is unable to say with confidence that a suitable education is being provided to every child.

It also warns how some families face being forced into home schooling due to a lack of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and the practice of off-rolling.

In addition to a statutory register for children out of school, the report makes a number of recommendations including greater support for families who home educate children with SEND and greater powers of oversight for local authorities.

It calls for assessment of progress in numeracy and literacy. These skills are essential to ensuring home educated children have access to future opportunities equal to those of their schooled peers. Such assessment would allow for the different paths that children with SEND may follow.

The rise of elective home education (p12)

Problems

  1. ‘Astonishing’ lack of data on number of children in home education and lack of support (p12)
  1. Inadequate support for home educated children with SEND (p17)
  1. Lack of powers for local authorities and clarity on ‘suitable’ education (p22)
  1. Shortage of data on outcomes (p32)
  1. Restricted access to exams (p33)

Solutions and recommendations

  1. A statutory register for children out of school (p14)
  1. An independent, neutral role supporting home educated children with SEND and independent advocates for excluded pupils (p20)
  1. Local authorities to make contact with parents at least once a year and more consistent support (p25)
  1. Better data on outcomes (p31)
  1. A level playing field on access to examinations (p33)

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

“For too long now, an unacceptable level of opaqueness has clouded elective home education, meaning we know little about either the number of children learning away from school or the type of education they are receiving. This fog has acted as a roadblock to saying with any confidence at all that every child in the country is getting access to a suitable education and the skills they need to succeed.

“It is frankly astonishing that we are only able to make a best guess at the number of children being educated at home, particularly when the Department for Education itself concedes that there is considerable evidence that many young people are missing out on the teaching and support that they are entitled to. Some parents are providing their children with a high-quality educational experience, but those against greater oversight must realise that it does not follow that all home educated children are in the same boat.

“Getting a grip on the number of young people not being taught in school with a national register for children outside of school must just be the first step in shaking up the status quo. Local authorities must also keep a much closer eye on how home educated children are progressing to ensure they have equality with their peers from school when it comes to moving on in education, training and work. Financial and practical support should be given to ensure home educated children can take exams.

“Teaching at home must also never be a fall-back option for parents forced into it as a last resort after exhausting all attempts to access they support they need for their children, particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities. Every parent or carer should have an allocated person to help them through the process when applying for an assessment of their child’s needs and where a choice about home education is being made. The DfE also needs to bear down on coercive off-rolling, to ensure excluded pupils do not slip into education away from school by default. There should be no forced choices when it comes to home education.”

Further information