6.1 It is a matter of some concern that despite a number of research studies and reports, it was not possible to identify with any degree of accuracy the number of children and young people currently educated at home. Our own data concurred with the DfES (2007) report, that there are around 20,000 children and young people currently registered with local authorities. We know that to be an underestimate and agree it is likely to be double that figure, if not more, possibly up to 80,000 children. I have no doubt that the vast majority of these children and young people are safe and well but, that may not be true for all.
6.2 ContactPoint will record the place where a child is being educated, where that is known, including where a child is being educated at home. (15)
6.3 Registration proposed within this report should complete the picture and offer further evidence of their wellbeing and educational progress. This information will complement the duty on local authorities to identify children not receiving a suitable education (16) . But because of the importance to local authorities of knowing the number of children and young people within the elective home education cohort, to assist in their commissioning of school places and to their understanding of why children were withdrawn from school, I believe it is important to report such information to the Children’s Trust, together with data concerning their use of current statutory orders, whether to supervise education or direct attendance at school.
That the DCSF require all local authorities to make an annual return to the Children’s Trust Board regarding the number of electively home educated children and young people and the number of School Attendance Orders and Education Supervision Orders as defined in the 1996 Education Act, issued to home educated children and young people.
6.4 While home education may sometimes be considered to be a better option for some children than mainstream education, parents should never be placed under pressure by schools to remove their children from school under threat of permanent exclusion or prosecution. I have heard evidence to this effect. The first priority of schools should always be to discuss with
(15) Further information on ContactPoint is at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/contactpoint
parents what support can be provided to keep their child in school and to ensure they behave well and attend regularly.
That the DCSF take such action as necessary to prevent schools or local authorities advising parents to consider home education to prevent permanent exclusion or using such a mechanism to deal with educational or behavioural issues.
6.5 There are some electively home educated children and young people who may wish to return to school. Many home educated young people do return to school or college, a number post 16 or earlier, to pursue vocational or academic courses. However, local authorities have advised that such a return is sometimes a problem, particularly if the only school place available is at a school where the child was previously registered. For a small minority I believe it is important to give local authorities powers in common with those held for looked after children to direct beyond planned admission numbers. Such powers must not of course be used simply to avoid the normal admission arrangements and local authorities would clearly only use this discretionary power when it was absolutely clear that the needs of the child or young person could not be met otherwise.
That the DCSF bring forward proposals to give local authorities power of direction with regard to school places for children and young people returning to school from home education above planned admission limits in circumstances where it is quite clear that the needs of the child or young person could not be met without this direction.