Plans to force home-schooling families to register their children with local authorities are “not a good use of public money”, according to a member of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board.
Councillor David Simmonds made the admission to a Parliamentary Committee when challenged by Graham Stuart MP about the cost of implementing a regulatory framework.
Proposals revealed last November in the Children, Schools and Families Bill would make it compulsory for home-educating families to register with their local authorities on an annual basis.
The proposals would also mean that parents who refuse to allow Government inspectors to conduct one-on-one interviews with their children may find themselves being deregistered and their children forced to attend school.
Mr Stuart, the Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness, warned that setting up the regulatory framework could cost £100 million and it would cost more than £50 million a year to maintain it.
This would mean that the proposed home education registration scheme could cost £500 million over the next ten years.
Mr Stuart used these figures to ask Mr Simmonds if he believed that the registration was a good use of money, and might not be better spent.
Mr Simmonds replied: “I could not agree that it is a good use of public money to spend that sort of figure on bureaucracy.”
Mr Simmonds went on to insist that more home school regulation was needed to protect a small number of children whose abuse was being hidden by home schooling.
However, Mr Stuart insisted that home education does not stop local authorities from protecting children.
In December the Children, Schools and Families Committee criticised the Government’s approach to home education.
The cross-party committee of MPs supported the Government’s proposal for registration, but suggested that “in view of the concerns expressed by home educators” it should initially be voluntary.
Over 200 public petitions opposing the Government’s home education clampdown have been presented by MPs to the House of Commons.
However, a Department for Children, Schools and Families response to these petitions claims that the proposals are “light touch”.
In September 2009 it was reported that an American court had ordered a home-schooled child to attend a Government-run school.
The court conceded that the ten-year-old from a Christian home was bright, sociable and academically advanced for her age.
However the court decided she should no longer be home schooled simply because, according to her mother’s attorney, her “religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held” and needed to be “mixed among other worldviews”.