MPs' bid to make home educator registration voluntary is rejected

19th March 2010 at 00:00
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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