Parents should not feel “threatened” by proposals for compulsory registration for home-educated children as it is likely to be similar to a school register, Ofsted’s chief inspector has said.
Amanda Spielman said a national register for home-educated children not in school – covering who they are, where they are based and who is responsible for them – “seems like pretty basic information”.
Speaking at an Institute for Government event, the chief inspector acknowledged that regulating home education was an “emotive” subject.
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But Ms Spielman said: “Just trying to understand which children are there to make sure that there is some sense of collective responsibility for (them) is a very basic thing and I don’t think any home-schooling parent needs to feel threatened by that.”
The Ofsted boss added that she was concerned there were a lot of children “with a home education label who are not getting a meaningful education”.
The chief inspector said there is a wide mix of people who choose to take their children out of school, but more people have been opting to home-educate due to their religious beliefs as well as “Covid anxiety”.
Speaking at the thinktank’s event, Ms Spielman said: “Over the years we’ve also seen an increasing strand that is really driven, I think, by religious belief.
“Often by people who are members of quite segregated religious groups who want to keep their child within that group while they are children so they prefer to educate them at home for that reason.”
She added: “And now we have got a layer that’s around Covid anxiety I think. Sometimes children who themselves perhaps have medical conditions, or who live in a family where somebody does, and sometimes perhaps simply parents who are particularly nervous about Covid.”
In July, the Department for Education (DfE) said it remained committed to a registration system for children being home-educated.
But home-education groups are opposed to the introduction of a register.
On Tuesday, Ms Spielman said: “The proposals that DfE have floated pre-pandemic, and that I think are likely to come back, are for basic registration essentially so that we know who the children are, where they are, and who’s taking responsibility for educating them.
“That to me seems like pretty basic information, and when I heard suggested by a home-schooling advocate that only paedophiles had to register, I thought, no, actually the vast majority of children in the country are on school registers with that kind of basic information.
“The better way to think about it is simply to extend some of what we capture through school registration of children so that we have the same basic information for children not in school.”
Earlier this year MPs warned that it is "astonishing" that the Department for Education does not know how many children are being educated at home amid concerns that the Covid pandemic will increase the number of parents choosing to do so.
A report published by the Commons Select Education Committee in July called for a national register of home-educated pupils to be created and the DfE has said that it was committed to this idea.