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Government to proceed with plans for register of children not at school

The Government is to go ahead with the creation of a register for children not in school “at the earliest available legislative opportunity”, the Department for Education has confirmed.

Publishing the outcome of a consultation on the issue, the DfE said: “The vast majority of home education is already done well, but particularly in light of the pandemic contributing to a rise in children not being educated in school, the government will support local authorities to make sure they know where every child is being educated, that it is of the right quality, and that support is offered to home educating families.”

The DfE has also promised additional support on behaviour for headteachers “to create calm, orderly, safe and supportive environments for children and young people to thrive in”. There will be a consultation on revised guidance, including advice on responding to behaviour incidents online.

The revised behaviour guidance will also make it clear that heads are best placed to make decisions on whether mobile phones should be in classrooms, considering the needs of their pupils. The DfE said there would be more consistent guidance to support headteachers with decisions about exclusions, “making sure they are used in a proportionate and fair way”.

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Meanwhile applications are being invited for the selection later this year of up to 300 of the School Rebuilding Programme’s 500 total projects this decade.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “While the majority of children already learn in a calm and well-maintained classroom, and some learn at home with dedicated parents, there are areas across the country where high standards are not being met.

“As Education Secretary, it is my priority to make sure every child gets the start in life they deserve, which is why I’m announcing clearer guidance to help every school boost behaviour and new legislation to create the first local authority register for children not in school. Not only this, but our school rebuilding programme will ensure pupils can learn in state of the art facilities, giving them the best opportunity to thrive.”

Children’s Commissioner Rachel D’Souza said: “The register of children not in school is vital in making sure that we are able to keep children safe and engaged, wherever they are learning. The reason I’ve pressed for the roll-out of a national register is that it is all about ensuring children are safe, that they get the best education they can, helping to unlock doors to their future, and that those dedicated parents who choose to educate their children at home feel supported in doing so.  

“What hundreds of thousands of children have told me is that they love school and are so pleased to be back in the classroom. Nothing made them value school more than the face-to-face education they’d missed so much during lockdown – they are happy to be back with their friends and teachers.

“There are however too many children who, for many reasons, have not come back to school or are not attending consistently and regularly. All of us working with children need to redouble our efforts to get all children back in the classroom - we should all know where all our children are, that they are safe, and getting the best education and support we can offer.”

Responding to the announcements, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “It is good the Government has acted on councils’ concerns around the increasing number of children receiving an education outside the classroom and missing out on the benefits that a school environment brings, such as safeguarding and learning and socialising with other children.

“While for some children home schooling can be a positive experience, we have long called for a register for all home educators to ensure that children are receiving a suitable education in a safe environment, as well as the tools and flexibilities for councils to check a child’s home schooling.

“These will be vital in helping to make sure children aren’t being taught in unsuitable or dangerous environments.”

The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) also welcomed the creation of a register of home educated children.

Gail Tolley, Chair of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee, said: "We have long raised with government the need for a register that gives us a full understanding of the number of children being home educated, locally and nationally. Whilst a register in and of itself will not keep children safe, it will help to establish exactly how many children are being educated other than at school and assist with the identification of children who are vulnerable to harm.

“Education is a fundamental right for all children and we recognise that parents have the right to educate their children at home. However, we urge the government to go further and provide local authorities with the powers to see both the child and their place of learning. Without this we cannot know that all home educated children are receiving a suitable education in a safe and appropriate learning environment."

Tolley added: “We await further detail on what will be included in the register and the level of funding provided to local authorities to meet their duty to support all home educated families in their area. ADCS is clear that any new duties must be fully funded and reflect the size of this cohort. Recent ADCS surveys have highlighted the rapid growth in the number of children being home educated over recent years and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

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