Home Education, Off-rolling, and Compulsory Registration

Home Education Advisory Service has received a number of enquiries relating to media coverage of [https://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/on-demand/68572-001] the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme. 

The programme was presented by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, who has also published [https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/publication/skipping-school-invisible-children/] her own related report, Skipping School: Invisible Children How Children Disappear from England’s Schools to coincide with the programme. 

The programme and the report both talk about the rise in home education numbers. Figures obtained by [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/osa-annual-report] the Office of the Schools Adjudicator suggest that the total number of home educated children in 2018 was 52,770.

The Children’s Commissioner says “there are clear indications that the growth in home education is related to the rise in children leaving school due to their needs being unmet”. 

HEAS is aware of many reasons why parents opt for home education. There is no comprehensive research in this area and it would be extremely difficult to obtain anything more than anecdotal evidence. 

The Children’s Commissioner is particularly concerned about a minority of schools off-rolling pupils, ie where a disproportionate number of children move from school into home education. 

Ofsted defines offrolling as: “The practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil.”

The Children’s Commissioner puts forward various proposals to deal both with the rise in home education numbers and with the behaviour of individual schools. 

One idea is to ask all local councils to monitor schools in their area and to report back to the Commissioner on schools where a large number of pupils are taken off-roll to be home educated. This seems eminently sensible but unfortunately has received very little publicity. 

The other recommendation from the Commissioner which has attracted far more media attention is for a compulsory home education register plus termly visits to all home educated children. 

A spokesperson for HEAS says “a register of home educators is not going to help with the vexed question of off-rolling. Schools are already required to inform the LA every time a child’s name is removed from a school admissions register. The law is set out in the Pupil Registration Regulations [http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/792/contents/made] as amended and explained very clearly in [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/children-missing-education] Children Missing Education statutory guidance. HEAS is strongly against the notion of a register of home educators because it will not tell LAs anything that they don’t already know about children who have been off-rolled.”

10 days after the Dispatches programme aired, the Children’s Commissioner published a statement on her website clarifying the position. https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2019/02/13/childrens-commissioner-responds-to-feedback-on-her-home-education-report-and-channel-4-documentary/

“We believe a register would not be a big burden for families and would allow councils to better support those families who need additional help.”