I will point out, before we start, that this has been done by me playing and typing, playing and typing etc etc. There may be transcription errors where I’ve misheard something, or mistyped something. You can listen to the show yourself at the moment here, segment starts 2 hr 33 minutes in.
I didn’t catch the name of the presenter?
Int: More and more children are being educated at home. Local authorities say there’s been a 200% rise in registrations, part of it might be covid but it is a trend it seems that we were already seeing. For many families it’ll work out just fine, but some local authorities are worried about the monitoring of them, what they’re being taught and in what circumstances. We will talk in a moment to Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, chair of the education select committee of the house of commons but first Councillor Richard Watts, and Cllr Watts is chair of the LGA resources board, local govt association resources board and leader of Islington council.
Int: Good morning to you.
Cllr W: Good morning.
I: We’re talking about a big rise. Do we know anything about the raw numbers?
W: well we think there’s something like 282k children missing out on formal education in England at the moment. But that could be as high as 1.1 million depending on how you define formal and full time because there’s some pretty grey areas around the edges of this. But that’s a very concerningly high number of kids who may not be getting the education that they should expect.
I: May not be. Now to what extent at the moment do we know how closely we understand what’s happening to them?
W: Not a great deal in all honesty. Your introduction was absolutely right, the vast majority of home educators do it for absolutely the right motivations and do a good job. However, we do know at times this can cover up for things that are more untoward, and what we have seen, because of covid and other factors, a very sharp increase this academic year. and therefore we are concerned there’s a lot of parents that have taken decisions to home educate who aren’t necessarily well set up or well prepared to do that and I think what’s concerning about all of this is that there are no power for councils to understand who doesn’t have a school place and therefore check where there are loopholes in the system. Or to check that basic safeguarding measures are being taken by people who are home educating, and I think that constitutes a pretty big loophole in our national safeguarding system.
I: well yes, so if a school, if someone is taken out of school does the school not report it to the council or someone.
W: they can do voluntarily but they’re not obligated to. And that is, so in areas where there are difficult relations between some schools and their local authorities, that does create a real problem. councils have a legal duty to ensure every child has a school place but we have no powers actually to ensure that we know what children aren’t in school at the moment.
I: so should there be a register or something so that you and people obviously without it being public but it could be consulted by people who are worried and wanted to keep an eye on what was going on.
W: we think there should be a register that at least sets out how every child is being educated it should be mandatory for schools to share their rolls with local councils so that we can cross check them against the kids we know are there and so that we can double check that every child in the area has a school place and we think there should be a duty on parents to provide information if their child isn’t attending a mainstream school. I think these are proportionate steps, they don’t interfere in parents’ rights to self educate but they do close a pretty gaping loophole in our safeguarding system.
I: Ah right then, Cllr Watts, thank you.
There now follows a short interlude, while I gather together the documents that show the actual legal responsibilities for schools around deregistration etc.
This is an excellent one: School attendance guidance (pdf)
I particularly like this paragraph:
All schools must notify the local authority when a pupil’s name is to be deleted from the
admission register under any of the grounds prescribed in regulation 8 of the Education
(Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 as amended, as soon as the ground for
removal is met and no later than the time at which the pupil’s name is removed from the
It also goes into a lot of detail on what schools have to give to local authorities. Hint, it’s a lot of information. And there’s a list of links of all the relevant bits of legislation. Useful.
Right. Shopping. I’ll do the second half of the interview later. And my thoughts in response will probably be part 3.
And now I think I’ve worked out Cllr Watts motivation. The local govt association has released a report into children missing education in which they try to redefine the term education to mean formal, full time education. Because every child needs formal teaching, and structured education at least 18 hours a week… Report here.