Overview of changes proposed in the Schools Bill for home educated children

Formal proposals for a Children Not in School [CNIS] register were included in the new Schools Bill [https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3156 ] which was introduced in the House of Lords in May 2022.  At the time of writing in August 2022 there have been considerable improvements in the registration clauses of the Bill which are discussed in more detail here [].  

The Government intends that in future parents of school age children in England will have to tell their local authority if their children are not enrolled at a state-funded or registered independent school so that the child’s details can be added to the CNIS Register 

Parents will also have to register their child’s details with the local authority if the child is “a registered pupil at a relevant school but the proprietor of the school has arranged or agreed that the child will receive education otherwise than at that or any other relevant school, and the child will be absent for some or all of the time when the child would normally be expected to attend”   

This is intended to cover children placed in unregistered alternative provision for part of the week (in other words, arranged by the school) or flexischooling arrangements agreed by the school, although the proposed penalties for not registering with the authority would seem to be redundant in circumstances where the child is already registered at a school.  

Note: this has been the stated intention of the Government as far back as the consultation of April 2019 [https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/children-not-in-school ] and was repeated in the consultation response published in February 2022.  

The Schools Bill will go through all the parliamentary stages in the Lords before being debated in the House of Commons. The Bill has almost finished in the House of Lords and would normally go directly to the Commons after Third Reading in the Lords but this particular Bill is harder to predict because the first and most substantial part of the Bill was removed in July to be overhauled outside parliament and there are indications this process might take many months before it is ready to be returned to MPs. Read more about bills in parliament here https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/passage-bill/  

Nothing can happen with compulsory registration until the Schools Bill has been through parliament and further changes may yet be made as it goes through parliament.  

While a prospective law is going through parliament but has not yet become law it is called a Bill and what will later be sections are at this point called clauses. Bills may be amended during the process of becoming law which is to say that clauses may be added or removed as well as having their wording altered, hence clause numbers may differ from the original version presented to parliament.  

Once a Bill becomes law –  an Act of Parliament – very few parts will be “commenced” immediately. We know that the CNIS Register will require a lot of new regulations to be made so one obvious possibility is that regulation-making powers are commenced immediately the Bill becomes law but the Government does not start consulting on regulations until after this point. Alternatively, consultation on prospective regulations and statutory guidance could be ongoing during the passage of the Bill through parliament and then be issued within a very short timeframe as happened with Children Missing Education guidance in 2006-7 or with SEN regulations linked to the Children and Families Act in 2014. Further clarification from the Government would obviously be welcome on this point, however what we have recently learned is that there will be a forum which is to include parents.  

On July 18th 2022 the Education Minister told parliament that there would be a consultative forum also described as a national panel set up to work on a draft of new statutory guidance before it went out to wider public consultation, with the minister saying “we will be working with parents, local authorities and safeguarding experts to create the implementation guidance for the register.”  

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