My Lords, I will speak briefly to the amendments in this group, of which Amendments 115, 117 and 119 were originally tabled by my right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans, who is unable to be present in the Chamber today.
As he is absent, I will focus on the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, which also extend the relevant period in which a parent must comply with registration and provide information, as requested from a local authority, from 15 days to 28 days, 30 days or 30 school days respectively. I know my right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans would have been happy to support these amendments, as do I, given their shared principle that giving parents sufficient breathing space to comply is helpful.
Fifteen days is simply too short a timeframe to register a child or provide any information necessary in accordance with the register. To begin with, parents may not even be aware of the obligation to register their child in the first place, making it imperative that there is a reasonable timeframe to inform the local authority that the child is eligible for registration. Home schooling is not subject to the traditional school calendar, meaning that a two-week holiday, far from unusual, would take up the entirety of the relevant period to comply. Fifteen days appears somewhat punitive and may unintentionally mean that parents fall foul of it, particularly where circumstances make it impossible to comply. I am not aware of any specific rationale behind this compliance timeframe of 15 days, so I would welcome the Government’s reason for it.
As it stands, I do not believe that the Government have reasonably considered the complexities of some families’ lives and the multitude of reasons for delays that could occur. Rather than being unnecessarily tight, as currently stipulated, the relevant period ought to reflect a more reasonable timeframe. I hope the Government will provide home-schooling parents with a relevant compliance period that reflects real-life circumstances, whether that is 28 days, 30 days or 30 school days.
Finally, I add my support to Amendment 128A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, which helpfully defines the correct relationship between local authorities and home-schooling parents, and the constructive and non-judgmental attitude that local authorities should have when dealing with elective home educators.