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MPs' bid to make home educator registration voluntary is rejected

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 19 March, 2010 | By: Richard Vaughan

Ministers say only compulsory system will reveal all children not in school

The government has rejected calls from an influential panel of MPs to make the registration of home-educated children voluntary.

The Commons schools select committee laid out its recommendations in its report earlier this year, which called for the registration scheme to be voluntary in its first two years.

But in giving its response last week, the Department for Children, Schools and Families dismissed the proposal, adding that it was unacceptable that local authorities do not know how many children are being home schooled.

In its report, the committee wrote: "In view of the concerns expressed by home educators about compulsory registration, we suggest that registration should be voluntary. Local authorities should publicise the benefits of registration, including the resources that will be available to registered families.

"The success of a system of voluntary registration (combined with improved information sharing) should be reviewed after two years."

The committee added that if the scheme was not successful after the two-year period, compulsory registration would have to be introduced.

But in response the DCSF said: "We welcome the committee's support for a registration system, but we cannot understand the logic of making it voluntary for two years given the benefits it offers to home-educated children.

"The current arrangements already amount to a voluntary registration and monitoring system, and we know from evidence provided to the select committee and given in public (Children, Schools and Families) Bill evidence that there are a group of home-educating families who will refuse to make themselves known to local authorities without some element of compulsion," the department added.

The bill, which is currently being debated in the Lords, will legislate for the compulsory registration of home educators following recommendations put forward in the Badman review last year.

Ann Newstead, spokesperson for Education Otherwise, a support group for home educators, said she was "not surprised" by the Government's response.

She added: "In the local authorities where there are good, positive relationships it's easy to see the benefits (of voluntary registration) because it builds trust and respect. A system based on compulsion commands no such respect."

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Comment (4)

  • They did rather miss the point that voluntary for two years followed by compulsory if enough people didn't volunteer isn't really voluntary at all. While it was highlighted that there's nothing to stop home educators volunteering their details to their local authority, everyone ignored the elephant in the room and failed to ask why home educators are so reluctant to be known by the state. Could it be that the state is offering nothing positive in return for that notification?

    Fortunately, barring some dodgy dealings, the whole lot will vanish when the election is called. Hopefully DCSF, or whatever it's called by then, will grow some working ears after the election.

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    19 March, 2010


  • The Bill is as popular with home educators as it is with teachers. DCSF launched the proposals in the Queen's Speech a month before the Select Committee published its critical report; obviously Government wasn't going to backtrack and admit the error of its ways once the Bill was grinding through the system. The Bill is not currently being debated in the Lords. There is unlikely to be line by line scrutiny at Committee because of the imminent election, at which point the home education clauses will be ditched in the wash-up. Could someone who knows a little about parliamentary scheduling write the next article, please.
    Many thanks
    Fiona Nicholson, Trustee Education Otherwise

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    19 March, 2010


  • "But in response the DCSF said: "We welcome the committee's support for a registration system, but we cannot understand the logic of making it voluntary for two years given the benefits it offers to home-educated children."

    Yet these benefits have yet to be explained!. Certainly nothing that would benefit home educated children is laid out in the Bill. I would really appreciate this information. What are the benefits to home educated children of a registration system?

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    19 March, 2010


  • Good grief is this what passes for journalism these days? The CSF Bill is NOT currently being debated in the Lords, in fact it hasn't even got a start date for the Committee Stage. A General Election is imminent (clue - the Parliamentary Easter Recess is going to be all of TWO working days long) and the bill does NOT have time to go through all the necessary stages and so will find itself in the wash-up and at the mercy of the opposition parties. The Home Education component is NOT going to become law, Michael Gove promised that on a Times Online Q&A and the Lib/Dems have also stated their opposition to it. It is DEAD. The DCSF is very likely living on borrowed too.

    I'm a home educator known to my Local Authority but not by choice because they are worse than useless. They have nothing what-so-ever to offer except the opportunity to be lied to and harassed. Seriously, if you want people to 'register' you need to give them a positive reason to do so and remove the PITA factor.

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    19 March, 2010


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