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Children’s Services Chiefs call for home education register that would help close illegal schools

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has called for a compulsory register of home educated children, as the number of children thought to be educated outside of school settings soars. Humanists UK, which has long campaigned for such a register to help in the crackdown on illegal religious schools, has welcomed the news.

Every year, the ADCS carries out a survey of local authorities in England to estimate the number and characteristics of children being home educated. In this year’s report, they have joined Parliament’s Education Committee and Ofsted by unequivocally backing a compulsory national register of home educated children.

The report estimates that 81,196 children and young people were being electively home educated on 7 October 2021. This represents an increase of seven per cent from 2020. However, there is no way of knowing how accurate these figures are, because there is no requirement for parents to register their children as home-educated. ‘Local authorities can only safeguard children who are known to them and without a mandatory register, there is no way of knowing the full extent of the size of this cohort,’ the report said.

The lack of a register also enables illegal schools to continue to operate by claiming to provide supplementary education to home educated children, even when the children are receiving all or most of their education in such settings. The end result is that thousands of children in England are missing out on the well-rounded education to which they are entitled. Former pupils of illegal schools have described leaving unable to speak English. One said he left with the education level of the average nine or ten-year-old. Illegal schools often operate in appalling conditions, with a total lack of safeguarding, and many pupils are exposed to extreme homophobic and misogynistic content, as well as physical abuse.

Education Policy Researcher Dr Ruth Wareham said:

‘This welcome report provides yet another reason why the Government has to stop dragging its feet and urgently introduce a register of home educated children. It is incredibly frustrating that the only information we have on the numbers of children being educated outside of school comes from a voluntary survey of local authorities, who are trying to plug a gap that the DfE should have filled long ago. The fact that this gap allows unsafe, narrowly religious illegal schools to thrive is particularly concerning.

‘Every child has the right to an education in a safe, suitable environment. We hope that the growing list of organisations calling for a compulsory home education register will finally prompt some action from ministers and help to close illegal schools for good.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Policy Researcher Dr Ruth Wareham at or phone 020 7324 3000 or 0772 511 0860

Read the report.

Read our most recent article on the independent child sexual abuse inquiry raising serious alarm about illegal schools.

Read our article on MPs call for home-education register to help tackle illegal schools.

Read our article on the humanist peers pressing the Government for action on illegal schools.

Read our article on Ofsted telling the Education Select Committee that ‘sham home education’ being used as a cover for illegal schools.

Read our article about illegal schools operating during lockdown.

Read more about our work on illegal schools.

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