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The Chair of Parliament’s Education Select Committee has today publicly given his support for a register of home educated children that will help to prevent illegal schools from operating.
Expressing concern about the current lack of regulation around home education, Robert Halfon MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, ‘we need accountability, we need transparency, we need the data, and we need a proper inspection regime to make sure these children are getting the best learning they should have.’ He added that a national register outlining how children who aren’t attending mainstream schools are educated ‘could not come soon enough’.
Humanists UK, which has led the campaign against illegal schools for many years, has been calling for a register for some time. At present, there is no requirement for parents who educate their children outside of a school environment to inform their local authority. Consequently, councils don’t know how many such children there are in their area or how they are being educated. This enables illegal schools to use the excuse they are providing supplementary lessons to home educated pupils as a cover for their activities, with authorities powerless to check whether this is true.
The Education Select Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the regulation of home education. In its submission to the related call for evidence, Humanists UK told the Committee that, until the home education loophole is closed and a register of home educated children established, the rights and welfare of children cannot be properly protected.
Many of the children who attend illegal or unregistered schools are taught by unqualified teachers in appalling conditions, with a total lack of safeguarding. When these schools have a religious character, the curriculum is usually narrow, focused on learning religious scripture (sometimes including extreme misogynistic and homophobic content) to the exclusion of other basic subjects such as English, Maths, and Science. Former pupils of these schools have described leaving unable to speak English and with the education level of the average nine or ten-year-old.
The Government recently re-launched a consultation on proposals to tighten the law on illegal schools, but this will only be fully effective if it happens alongside necessary reforms to home education.
Humanists UK’s Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:
‘Robert Halfon is entirely correct to say that a national register of home educated children cannot come soon enough. For many years, Humanists UK has advocated for the introduction of such a register because, without it, Councils cannot even be sure how many children in their local area are being educated outside of schools, let alone whether those children are safe or their education is suitable. This not only means that the rights and interests of thousands of children aren’t being properly protected, but it allows illegal schools to continue to thrive completely unchecked.
‘The Government has taken far too long to act on this issue. We hope the Education Select Committee inquiry means that the reforms required to keep children healthy, happy, and safe will happen as a matter of urgency.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3000 or 0772 511 0860.
Read our most recent article on the recently launched voluntary code of practice for out-of-school settings.
Read our most recent article on Government relaunching consultation on tightening law on illegal schools.
Read our full illegal schools consultation response.
Read our article on lack of engagement in safeguarding from unregistered Jewish schools in Hackney.
Read more about our work on illegal schools.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.