Are children ‘lost’ in lack of regulated schooling?

I recently read a BBC report on the 1000-or-so boys from Orthodox Jewish families thought to be in “illegal” schools in London.

There is little difference between a (legally) unregistered home schooled pupil and one of these “illegally” schooled Jewish boys. Both can follow any curriculum their parents desire; both can be educated in unsuitable buildings; both are under the radar of their local council, and therefore, the general wellbeing of those children is less visible.

While the parents who come to us for private tuition could be particular about following a severely non-secular program, or vice-versa, avoiding any religious education at all, what we’ve found is that actually parents want the broadest, most inspiring education for their children.

Our parents want to cherry-pick subjects, examinations and learning styles from infinite possibilities. It’s one of the great advantages of 1:1 tuition. They don’t want to squander that opportunity by restricting learning to one narrow strand.

Home education in the UK is legal and highly flexible, which is why there has been such a boom in families choosing to educate their own children at home, the majority with great success. However, if a family – or group of families – decide to educate multiple siblings together, would that then make it an unregistered school and, therefore, automatically illegal? The definitions are currently very blurry, and would need careful thought before any new regulations were put in place. I believe that all education should be registered, for the safety and wellbeing of students, but these details need to be worked out before moving forward.

I met with some strong opposition to my recent views on the need for a register of home-schooled children from the home education community. While some were quietly in support of my motives – after all, it all comes down to the safety of children – many others are striving for anonymity.

For clarity, I’ll say it again – I’m not saying that the home education community or Charedi Jews, for example, should have a register imposed upon them. I’m saying that as there is currently concern around unregistered education and children being lost from the local authorities’ view, now is the time for groups of alternative educators to get involved in the discussion and ensure they shape the outcome so that it works for everyone. And works, in particular, for the benefit of our country’s children.

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