A recent small piece in the news about unregistered schools in the UK piqued my interest. The heading was:
Local authorities are paying for places for children in settings that are not even registered, Ofsted is warning.bbc.co.uk
Surely not? Not with the crisis of funding in most local authorities for all services. But particularly in view of the lack provision of school support for children with SEND.
However, the Governments own report states that:
Ofsted has investigated 521 settings, and inspected 259 since January 2016.Gov.uk
Ofsted estimates that as many as 6,000 children are being educated in the unregistered settings it has inspected to date. These children are potentially at risk because there is no formal external oversight of safeguarding, health and safety or the quality of education provided.Gov.uk
It is shocking that there may be many already vulnerable children who shunted into inadequate provision that puts them at even more risk. And that only a proportion of these settings have been investigated.
What are unregistered schools?
The Governments definition of an unregistered school is one that:
is operating as an independent school, without registration. It is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered independent school in England.Gov.uk
However, the parameters for registering a school are very small:
- must have 5 or more children of compulsory school age
- or has just one child who is ‘looked after’ by the local authority or who has an education, health and care plan
- it must operate from ‘a building’
- it must offer a curriculum that includes maths and english
- must provide more than 18 hours education a week
So, theoretically, I could register a school from my kitchen table, enrol a friends child who has an EHCP and get funding from the local authority.
It’s farcical, but also really quite terrifying. I had no idea this could and is happening until I read this article. Did you
I appreciate that some parents are using this loophole as a way to keep their children out of mainstream education. However, I think some children who are off-rolled due to lack of SEN support will then end up in provision that isn’t registered and isn’t appropriate or safe for their child.
What can you do if you find your child in an unregistered school?
Firstly, and most surprisingly, Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states that it is the parents responsibility to ensure that they secure an appropriate education for their children.
Secondly, educate yourself about the standards set for independent provision. Ofsteds own document sets out the guidelines for how parents, educational departments and OFSTED should work together.
If you need legal advise or support contact IPSEA for help.