Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families 4:18 pm, 11th January 2010

I do think that we should offer support, rather than impose it. In our response to the Badman report, we will offer extensive support to home-educating parents, which they can choose to take up.

Let me quote the Select Committee:

"In our view it is unacceptable that local authorities do not know accurately how many children of school age in their area are in school, are being home educated or are otherwise not in school."

I completely agree with that, but it is not possible for local authorities to know that information unless they know where all the children are and whether they are being home educated. I also agree with the Select Committee when it says:

"We believe that registration would encourage local authorities and home educators to recognise that it is to their mutual advantage to have a clear record of children who are being...educated."

The Select Committee also says:

"the wider evidence that we received illustrated the potential value of the requirement for annual meetings between home educating families and local authority officers for the purpose of supporting home education provision. We believe that local authorities need a guaranteed means of engaging with these families."

It is vital that people in local authorities are properly trained. The Bill makes it clear that there is no right for a local authority to see the child of a home-educating family on their own, without the parents there. There is no such right in the Bill.

I say to Mr. Stuart, who is a member of the Select Committee, that it is not possible for local authorities to know where the children are, and that they are safe and learning, if they do not know how many there are, and which homes they are in. We cannot know that without a registration scheme.

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