Regulating home educators 'not a good use of money'
The #163;500 million cost of regulating parents who choose to home educate their children over the next 10 years "would not be a good use of public money", MPs were told last week.
The admission came from councillor David Simmonds, a member of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, during a public bill committee hearing that is taking evidence on the Children, Schools and Families (CSF) Bill.
The Government is attempting to legislate for all parents who home school their children to register them under the CSF Bill, following recommendations set out in the Badman Review into elective home education.
The review came under fierce attacks from the home education lobby when it was published last year. Conservative MP and home education activist Graham Stuart echoed these concerns, questioning Mr Simmonds on whether the regulation of a government-estimated 70,000 home educated children would be "a good use of public money".
Mr Stuart said: "According to the Government's impact assessment on home education, the one-off costs for 70,000 would amount to around #163;100 million to set up the licensing bureaucracy, and thereafter upwards of #163;50 million a year.
"If that is implemented, for the next decade it would cost about #163;500 million to put in place a licensing bureaucracy, with no additional resource whatever for actual educational support.
"Given the constraints on public finances at the moment, do you think that it is, first, a good use of money and, secondly, that it might not lead to the redirection of funding from children who are in need?"
Mr Simmonds replied saying the issue around home education was not one of setting up "regulation frameworks", but of giving local authorities power to access homes where they fear home education is being used as a "smokescreen".
"When it comes to addressing the challenge, the issue is not so much a regulatory framework for home education in the round, but around beefing up the capacity of local authorities, which are currently barred from access to homes," he said.
"I can speak from personal experience of cases when this has cropped up - to ensure that children are safe and enjoying the appropriate state of well-being, which they should, so half a billion pounds on regulation is not a good use of money in my view."