Children Not in School Register (England)

On May 11th 2022 the government set out proposals for the compulsory registration of children not in school (sometimes wrongly referred to as a “home education register”.) For those wondering exactly what – and how much – information might be included on the register the Fact Sheet (also referred to as a Policy Statement or Policy Briefing) which the government published alongside the Schools Bill has some illuminating – and alarming – details.

Here are some key extracts from the Fact Sheet plus my comments.

Each local authority in England will be required to maintain its own register of children who are not in school. A child will be eligible for registration if they are mainly living in the local authority’s area, of compulsory school age, and not a registered pupil at a school maintained by a local authority, a non-maintained special school, an Academy school or alternative provision academy, or a registered independent school.”

This is where we see that it is a register defined by negatives, by what is NOT happening ie if the child is NOT ALREADY REGISTERED ELSEWHERE, the intention is to capture their details on this new register. The rationale for this is explained as follows:

“There are increased concerns about the rising numbers of children not on a school roll [my emphasis] (either due to being home educated, attending full-time non-school alternative provision, or missing education completely.”

However, it immediately starts to unravel – for me at least, because suddenly the register expands to include children who ARE ALREADY ON ROLL!

“Children of compulsory school age will also be eligible for registration if they are registered as pupils at schools but do not attend school full-time, including ‘flexi-schooled’ children, children who attend mainstream school part-time but spend the rest of their time in unregistered alternative provision, and children who are registered at school but attend unregistered alternative provision (part-time or full-time) instead.”

Perhaps this is why the simple register now becomes vastly more complicated?

“The registers will need to contain the child’s name, date of birth, home address, parents’ names and home addresses, and certain details of how their education is being provided (the details to be set out in regulations, including any persons providing some or all of the education and any institutions at which some or all of it is being provided).”

Alarm bells start ringing for me at the phrase “details to be set out in regulation” because this means there is virtually nothing on the face of the Bill and it will all be decided later with much less scrutiny. It will be important for members of parliament (House of Lords first, then House of Commons) to seek assurance from the Minister as to the expected scope of these regulations and what the consultation process will be.

For example a seemingly innocuous phrase about “certain details of how their education is being provided” MIGHT just mean confirming whether or not the child attends an institution for a substantial part of their home education, or it COULD mean that the local authority expects a full breakdown from parents regarding the educational provision. It is not a trivial matter because under the new law if it appears to the local authority that the parent has returned incomplete information or has failed to respond fully to enquiries, this will be a trigger for the LA to issue a 10 day notice for the parent to satisfy the LA that the child is receiving suitable education. (I explain more about School Attendance Orders here)

“Other information will be included in the registers and will be set out in regulations. This could include the child’s ethnicity and other demographic information, reasons for EHE, any special educational needs, and information about the child’s welfare and general circumstances.”

Again we find mention of “regulations” and now there is alarmist reference to much more than name, age, date of birth etc. We see “ethnicity” “demographic information” “reasons for EHE” [elective home education] and last but not least “information about the child’s welfare and general circumstances.”

It is no secret that some local authorities believe this type of information helps them to predict whether home education is likely to be successful eg that if a child is removed from school for “negative reasons” such as special needs not being met, or comes from a deprived postcode area, then there is a greater need to intervene immediately supposedly to “rescue” the child. In other words, the register could function as a screening tool or for the LA to triage or do RAG rating etc, supposedly sorting out the home education sheep from the goats.

However, it is important to stress that this Fact Sheet/Policy Statement does not have the same status as the actual Schools Bill. The Fact Sheet could have been written by someone with very little knowledge of – or influence over – any subsequent regulations. Nevertheless it serves as a warning of what might be possible and in my view it requires something on the record from the Minister by way of assurance one way or the other so that we have a clearer idea of what we are dealing with.

For more on the Schools Bill, see https://edyourself.org/articles/registration.php

7 thoughts on “Children Not in School Register (England)

  1. leaflittering

    Dear Fiona, Thank you very much for diligent scrutiny and rigorous analysis of the actial and potential implications of the register proposals.  As you note, it offers opportunities for mission creep (?), as govs’  regrettable tendencies to arrogate to themselves the option for control over any- and everything, on the entirely unfounded and incorrect belief that being the temporal authority – here, as the parent of last resort – somehow fits them to be or become the spiritual authority, as parent of first resort.   This belief persists and is promoted even in and by parties supposedly advocating minimal goverment.

    Probably it’s the figleaf of attributed and asserted meritocracy over the naked genitals of mediocracy. Ho hum. Is there a formal or informal consultation period or feedback opportunity, other than via lical MP? More thanks and appreciation always. Leaf Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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  2. Mother M

    A lot of home edders seem to think this register is a terrible thing. I don’t.

    There are girls born in this country who will never learn English, and will be trapped in a lifestyle that their culture deems fit, as they don’t have a chance to know anything else.
    There are those who are taught extremist views, and isolated from the wider community.
    I suspect that the government may be interested in these these families, but be unable to officially say this in case they are classed as racist etc.

    My child is one of many who left school for “negative reasons”. We are on the LA’s register and his education has been deemed “satisfactory”. I would actually appreciate further scrutiny / advice / support on making his education better if it were available, but it isn’t, and unfortunately being on a list doesn’t change that.

    A longer, more complete list is unlikely to lead to more interference – services are stretched enough as they are.

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Yes, not every home educator will be against registration. Can I ask – where you say you would appreciate further scrutiny/advice/support on making his education better, do you mean you think he is missing out by your not getting more advice and support from the local authority?

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  3. Pingback: School Attendance Orders and Compulsory Registration FAQ | edyourself

  4. Suzanne

    When I first started HE I couldn’t think of anything wrong with a register, after all I have nothing to hide. 8 years on I can. There are no doubt children who need ‘rescuing’ but I think they are the minority. In every child safe guarding training I have ever received HE is straight away a red flag. All the prejudices that come with it too. I have attended A&E with two of my girls and the nurses were ever so kind to my very sick girls until they discovered we were a HE family. With temperatures of over 40C they were questioned and I was kept away from them. They assume you are evil and such a register will just confirm this. Like criminals on a tag. That is just one thing I fear. What if you have to follow the school curriculum? A learning style I do not agree with. It tells us as a society that parents are not enough for their children. I don’t teach in the traditional sense but facilitate learning. My daughter asked to study Latin, I never learned Latin at school but we found a curriculum and she’s doing well. Not being able to offer this in favour for the very limiting NC saddens me. All stinks of communism and what about all the diversity they all value so much?!?

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Hi, there is NOTHING in the proposals about curriculum or defining “suitable education” or about monitoring. The government did initially combine registration and monitoring but dropped the monitoring bit in 2019. I do think the word register has bad connotations though and would prefer it if they said list or database because I think that just sounds like a description not anything oppressive or marking you out but apparently nobody except me likes the word database. Being able to learn Latin just because you want to sounds great!

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  5. Pingback: School Attendance Orders FAQ Part 2 | edyourself

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