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Department for Education proposes registration requirement for children not in school

This week the Department for Education announced that it would be taking steps to legislate to introduce a registration requirement for children educated outside of school. This proposal followed the Children Not in School ('CNIS') consultation, as part of which wider views were obtained as to whether or not a local authority administered CNIS register should be introduced. The thought behind this was to improve the ability of local authorities to undertake their safeguarding and educational responsibilities related to children who do not attend mainstream education institutions.

Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, said:

"The reasons that parents may have for educating their children at home will vary. For some this will be due to personal circumstances or learning needs, for example mental health, caring responsibilities or special educational needs. For others this may be due to ideological or philosophical views which that they feel would be better promoted through education at home. Whatever the reason, home education works best when it is a positive choice in which the child's education is the primary driver for the decision.

However, feedback from local authorities suggests that not all children educated at home are being educated properly or having their needs met. With local authorities also reporting increasing numbers of children being home educated, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, for reasons other than a commitment to home education, there is a greater need for local authorities to be able to identify these children to assure themselves about the education being provided."

In response to the proposal, Gail Tolley, Chair of the ADCS educational Achievement Policy Committee said:

"ADCS welcomes the creation of a register of home educated children. We have long raised with government the need for a register that gives us a full understanding of the number of children being home educated, locally and nationally. Whilst a register in and of itself will not keep children safe, it will help to establish exactly how many children are being educated other than at school and assist with the identification of children who are vulnerable to harm.

"Education is a fundamental right for all children and we recognise that parents have the right to educate their children at home. However, we urge the government to go further and provide local authorities with the powers to see both the child and their place of learning. Without this we cannot know that all home educated children are receiving a suitable education in a safe and appropriate learning environment.

"We await further detail on what will be included in the register and the level of funding provided to local authorities to meet their duty to support all home educated families in their area. ADCS is clear that any new duties must be fully funded and reflect the size of this cohort. Recent ADCS surveys have highlighted the rapid growth in the number of children being home educated over recent years and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic."

For the Department for Education consultation response, click here.

For the ADCS response, click here.

Julia Queen, Barrister, Coram Chambers