A national register of children who do not receive their education in mainstream schools is “absolutely necessary”, a group of MPs has told the Government.
The Commons Education Committee made the recommendation following an inquiry into elective home education, the findings of which were published last week.
At a hearing before the Education Committee in June, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson repeated the Government’s commitment to such a register, suggesting its introduction was imminent.
Responding to the committee’s findings, Wendy Charles-Warner, a trustee of the charity Education Otherwise, told the BBC: “Yet again we have policy recommended on the basis of rhetoric and rumour, rather than evidence.
“Parents are deeply aggrieved that the huge majority of their submissions – which make clear that there is no basis, nor benefit, in registration of home-educated children – have been ignored, in what was manifestly a predetermined outcome of a deeply prejudiced inquiry.”
She added: “The only valid and reasonable recommendation in this report is that home-educated children receive fair access to examinations, a point which should not need making.”
Earlier this month, education specialist Dr Harriet Pattison expressed similar concerns about the impact of a register, as well as voicing fears that its imposition by Westminster would pave the way for more intrusive measures.
The Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Liverpool Hope University told The Daily Mail: “What parents are doing is a legitimate option that sits next to school education in the eyes of the law”.
She argued that the proposal was “simply putting people’s names on a list” and that it would effectively criminalise parents “who don’t sign up”.
The academic warned that if a statutory register were to be introduced, the “doorway to monitoring will be thrown open. And monitoring will mean standardisation – which goes against the whole point of alternative education”.
Dr Pattison continued: “If there’s going to be policy changes, make sure they’re ones that are helping people and offering support – such as granting access to exams for home educated children – not closing doors and taking opportunities away from families and, ultimately, all the children who benefit from home education.”
this register will not build those bridges but drive more wedges between families and authorities
She also expressed concern that those being recruited to carry out home education assessments by councils were under-qualified and inadequately trained, which further fostered “mistrust between local authorities and home educators”.
The expert concluded: “Sadly, this register will not build those bridges but drive more wedges between families and authorities.”