DfE promises crackdown on home schooling

Government vows to issue tougher guidance on home schooling after Birmingham education head criticises lack of council inspection powers

Will Hazell

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The government has said it is going to publish tougher guidance on home schooling.

Speaking in the House of Lords this afternoon, school system minister Lord Agnew said the Department for Education would strengthen the guidance for local authorities and parents on home education.

According to the DfE, the strengthened guidance will "help parents understand their responsibilities in delivering home education and make sure local authorities are clear on the action they can take".‎

The government intends to publish draft guidance to gather views from the education sector and parents on home-schooling via a public consultation, which will be launched shortly.

Lord Agnew said: "Parents have a right to teach their children at home if they choose, but it's also right that we make sure all children are getting a safe and suitable education.

“This guidance will help parents understand their rights and responsibilities on home education, and will mean local authorities are clear on the action ‎they can take where these responsibilities are not being met‎.”

Under the current system, schools must inform local authorities if a pupil is taken off their register, and councils have powers to intervene if children are at risk or not receiving a suitable education.

Local authorities can serve a notice to parents requiring evidence that shows their child is receiving a suitable full-time education if the council suspects this is not being delivered. 

If the parent fails to provide the evidence and the council decides the child should attend school, a school attendance order can be put forward that is enforceable through the courts.

Safeguarding risks

Councils and the police also have existing powers to intervene if there is a safeguarding risk in a child being educated at home.

In an interview in this week's Tes magazine, Colin Diamond, who took over as head of education at Birmingham City Council following the Trojan Horse scandal, said he was concerned about unregulated spaces outside of school, including home-schooling.

Mr Diamond said one of the "the biggest risks in terms of exposure to any form of non-mainstream societal values [is]... if you are at home, because you are not part of the social group". 

Following last month’s judgement by the Court of Appeal that Birmingham’s Al-Hijrah school’s gender segregation policy was unlawful, he said he feared the decision could lead to more parents choosing to educate their children at home, to keep their daughters separated from boys.

But he said his council has limited powers to check on these children. “As local authorities, we should have a right to see children who are educated at home – and I don’t currently have that right," he said.

“We think there should be a change of a law – and we are told it’s under discussion [by the Department for Education].”

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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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