Thousands more children being home-schooled in wake of pandemic as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson promises register

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A register of home educated children will be introduced “imminently” the education secretary said on Wednesday.

Speaking to MPs on the education committee, Gavin Williamson said he is “absolutely committed” to creating a register of home educated children and its introduction is “imminent”.

At the moment nobody knows exactly how many children are being educated at home. Committee chair Robert Halfon said the most reliable estimate for England is 75,000, but he said the actual rate could be higher because many local authorities are not confident they know all of the children who are being home educated in their areas.

During the pandemic many more children were taken out of school to be home educated. Mr Halfon said around 20,000 children moved to home education during this time.

Speaking about the register, Mr Williamson said: “it is imminent as to when this will be brought forward. It is incredibly important to ensure that there is that accountability and that monitoring.”

Asked by Mr Halfon if it will be before the summer recess, he said: “It is very very imminent…you are trying to spoil grids here Rob….our commitment to bringing this forward is absolutely clear.”

Mr Williamson said there are no immediate plans to bring in standardisation or assessments for home educated children.

He said: “The quality of home education is incredibly high right across the board….there are a lot of parents who put an awful lot of time effort and resource into it,. The first key step is establishing this register that’s what we will be doing very, very shortly.”

Asked about making the school day longer, Mr Williamson said he is concerned that some schools close “far too early” and added: “I don’t want to see that continue.” He said some secondary schools close at 2.45pm or earlier and he would like them to “go a bit further.” He said we are the only country in Europe where pupils spend less time at school after the age of 16 than they did when they were younger.

Speaking about GCSEs and A-Levels, Mr Williamson said he has not seen this year’s results, which have been worked out by teachers rather than exams.

He said taking exams would always be his “first second and third” preference, but that this year teacher assessed grades was the “absolute right and best route and approach.”

He said he “very much hopes and intends” for exams to go ahead next year but admitted that “mitigations and adjustments” will need to be made to take into account the disruption that current year 10 and 12 students have been through. He added that things will not “immediately switch back to the absolute same situation as it was in 2019.”

He also said he expected exam boards to give a rebate to schools for the fees they paid this year. This would take into account the fact that teachers this year determined pupils’ grades and exam boards have not had to set or mark papers.

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