A controversial Ofsted report on home education has been slammed by the new Chairman of the influential House of Commons Education Select Committee.
Conservative MP Graham Stuart said comments made by Ofsted’s chief inspector Christine Gilbert defending the report were “deeply concerning”.
The education watchdog has said it wants legislation which would require “parents to register their intention to home educate” with local authorities.
And the report also called for local authority officials to be allowed to enter homes annually to “monitor the child’s progress” and have a private discussion with the child.
Mr Stuart commented: “It is astonishing that the chief inspector of schools should stray onto home education and get it so wrong.”
He strongly defended the rights of home educators, saying: “Parents, not the state, have the statutory duty to ensure that their children have a suitable education.”
Home education charity Education Otherwise also criticised Ofsted’s conclusions, saying they were “remarkably similar to the now-discredited” Badman report on home schooling, which had influenced the last Government’s plans on home schooling.
The Labour Government had attempted to force through plans to make it compulsory for home-educating families in England to register with their Local Authorities, but it dropped them due to time pressures before the election.
Mr Stuart argued that in order to ensure all children get a suitable education local authorities should “serve and support” home educators rather than “catalogue and monitor” them.
“The obvious and correct answer is for local authorities to improve their support for families so that more families make contact with them voluntarily,” he added.
Fiona Nicholson, trustee of Education Otherwise, commented: “We have always said that obliging parents to register for home schooling would be the first step towards forcing them to ask for permission.”
She said: “This report seems an irrelevance. I don’t think there’s the political will to push the changes through.”
Education Otherwise also expressed confidence that the new Government would reject Ofsted’s recommendations, given the Coalition’s “commitments to civil liberties and a smaller state”.
After interviewing home-schooling families, Ofsted found that the children were “enthusiastic” about home education.
It also found that those who had attended school previously preferred being educated at home.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We respect the right of parents to home educate their children.
“The Ofsted report confirms that most parents who educate their children at home do a very good job, some of them picking up the pieces where children have had problems at school.
“We note Ofsted’s findings and recommendations and ministers will shortly be considering if changes need to be made to the existing arrangements, given the strong views expressed by both home educators and local authorities.”