Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Changes in pupil registration regulations

Regular readers will recall that I have several times written here that although there may be no specific new laws planned around home education, many of the recommendations of the Badman report could be introduced in small stages, simply by modifying existing laws. We have seen this happen in recent weeks when one of the suggestions made by Graham Badman was slipped in as an amendment to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 - as amended by The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010. This was the requirement that after parents deregister a child from school, the school should retain the child's name on their roll for twenty days. Personally, I think it a good idea, but that is neither here nor there. The fact is that when it was included as part of Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009, a number of home educating parents objected to it. It has now been brought in anyway. The same will probably be happening with other recommendations from Badman. Michael Gove and Nick Gibb will simply slip them into changes in regulations and most people will not even notice until it has been done. What sort of changes could be made without drawing up a major new law? Well, almost anything really; some of them very wide ranging. Let me give an example.

I was at a special school in Hackney yesterday, with a mother who is very unhappy about the class that her child has now been placed in. She told the head that she regarded the new class as little better than baby-sitting and that unless her daughter is moved, she will simply remove her from the school and keep her at home. One might have though that like other parents wishing to home educate, she had a perfect right to do so and simply needed to write a letter to de-register her child from the school. She does not have the right to do this at all. Children at special schools cannot be de-registered without the consent of the local authority. The legal basis for this is to be found in Regulation 8(2) of those same Education(Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 which I mentioned above. And guess what? There is absolutely nothing to stop the government tacking another bit onto the The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, which extends this principle to all schools. I have heard it suggested that the requirement of Regulation 8(2) is discriminatory against disabled children and actually breaches the law because of this. Bringing other schools into line with this requirement would simply remove the discrimination against disabled pupils. In other words, it would be possible to compel the parents of all schoolchildren to seek permission of the local authority before they were allowed to take their kids out of school. From there, it would only be another small step to ensure that permission could be made contingent upon the parents signing an agreement that they would work closely with the local authority and accept regular visits. No signing of the agreement; no permission to de-register.



In case readers think that this is some fantasy which I have dreamed up, I suggest that they familiarise themselves with the process by which existing legislation can be amended in this way. They might be in for a shock. Michael Gove certainly does not want a big confrontation with home educators of the sort that Ed Balls had, but nor is he apparently intending to leave the situation as it is. Any future changes are likely to be small tweaks in the law and existing regulations. Most will, like the twenty day rule, be slipped past home educating parents until it is too late to do anything about it.

12 comments:

  1. What you have overlooked, Simon, is the issue of the statement of special educational needs in the de-registration of children from special schools. As you know, statements involve a specific legal responsibility in terms of provision and the statement has to be maintained until it is no longer needed. It also involves considerable financial commitment on the part of the LA. There is a further issue about the allocation of special school places, so, on those grounds, it does not seem unreasonable that the LA should be involved in the decision to remove a child from a special school.

    The extension of this requirement to all children, however, would bring in the issue of who is legally responsibility for children's education. Currently, parents are legally responsible; LAs get involved only if the parent asks them to educate the child.

    Technically, the government might be able to slip in a change to the regulations but it would be a strategy they might regret as soon as some parent decided to send their kid to private school and the LA witheld consent.

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  2. ' it does not seem unreasonable that the LA should be involved in the decision to remove a child from a special school.'

    I agree completely. However, some parents of children at special schools have complained that the effect of Regulation 8(2) is to discriminate against them. Whether we agree with this or not, it does not alter the fact that adopting this procedure for all children at all schools could be done with the stroke of a pen and made to look like a levelling of the playing field and removal of a discrimination against children with special needs. I do not say that the government plans to do this; only that they could easily do so in precisely the same way that they have introduced the twenty day rule.

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  3. thank goodness none of that will affect us! no 20 days for us!

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  4. When was this amendment slipped in? Are you sure? Sorry if this is a dumb question and Im sure you wouldnt have written it if you weren't, Im just a little surprised that it was slipped in without one of the more diligent home edders noticing.
    I dont really know the law, but don't they have to notify some sort of intention to amend a law before they do it?

    I am wondering whether HE'ers should be more vigilant once again.

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  5. 'Im just a little surprised that it was slipped in without one of the more diligent home edders noticing.'

    It has been noticed, although too late to do anything about it. Have a look at the Badman Review Action Group list and you will see concern being belatedly expressed about this.

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  6. 'However, some parents of children at special schools have complained that the effect of Regulation 8(2) is to discriminate against them. Whether we agree with this or not, it does not alter the fact that adopting this procedure for all children at all schools could be done with the stroke of a pen and made to look like a levelling of the playing field and removal of a discrimination against children with special needs. I do not say that the government plans to do this; only that they could easily do so in precisely the same way that they have introduced the twenty day rule. '

    Parents with children at special schools might feel discriminated against, but levelling the playing field isn't the only issue. The SSEN and its legal ramifications are a key factor, and the most likely reason for this regulation being in place.

    I can't see any reason for government extending the 'consent' clause to all children but I can see reasons why they shouldn't - even if viewed only from their perspective.

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  7. Here is the original letter setting out the changes;

    http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/p/pupil%20registration%20regulations%20-%20handout.pdf

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  8. Simon said..It has been noticed, although too late to do anything about it. Have a look at the Badman Review Action Group list and you will see concern being belatedly expressed about this.
    Thanks, sadly (or maybe not so sadly...) Im not on BRAG but at least its being talked about.

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  9. 'Thanks, sadly (or maybe not so sadly...) Im not on BRAG'


    Anybody can view the BRAG messages, C. Just go to;

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/badmanreviewactiongroup/messages

    You have to join to contribute, but I think anybody can see what is being said.

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  10. their is no way most LA would solve a poblem with in 20 days with a school it takes them weeks to reply to a letter! does government really think LA's move that fast?

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  11. Thanks, I'll take a look.

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  12. Webb is wrong again, it is not too late - watch and see !

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