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Liberal Democrats vote for action on unregistered schools

Lib Dem Education Spokesperson Layla Moran MP

The Liberal Democrats have passed new party policy aimed at tackling unregistered schools, many of which are religious. The policy, which was approved at the party’s Spring Conference, sets out to ‘strengthen the hand of local authorities (LAs) to deal with unregistered schools, including by reviewing the legislation’, and requires LAs to check up on the education of children outside of registered schools twice a year.

Humanists UK leads the national campaign for action on unregistered religious schools, working closely with former pupils of such schools to provide evidence to the authorities and call for reform. Humanists UK believes that both regulation of out-of-school settings (many of which covertly operate as full-time schools) and a simple register of home-educated children would allow relevant authorities to ensure the education and safety of all children.

The new Liberal Democrat policy explains:

‘While we recognise the rights of parents to choose how their children are educated we believe there is a need for greater supervision of those children who are educated outside registered schools. There have been cases of children who have come to serious harm while invisible to the system because they were being home schooled. The number of such cases is small, and we would not want to see the vast majority of parents who home school their children extremely well put to great inconvenience, but we believe there is a duty to ensure the safety of such children.

‘There are also examples of unregistered schools which are providing a type of education which would not be allowed in a registered school. Unregistered schools fall entirely outside the inspection and regulatory regimes for ensuring that children are in a physically safe and healthy environment, that they are safe from physical or sexual abuse, and that they receive an education that is fit for purpose and prepares them for adult life. In the most extreme cases, English is not even spoken, so some children will not learn even basic English language skills.’

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘Local and national governments in the UK have a duty of care to every child, so it is simply not right for them to have no knowledge whatsoever of the whereabouts or education of tens of thousands of children. That is what the Lib Dems’ new party policy tries to address and we welcome their efforts. It is time for the Government to act now too.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk.

Read the new Liberal Democrat policy: https://hsld.org.uk/en/article/2018/1258573/home-education-and-unregistered-school-the-new-party-policy-in-full

Read more about our work on illegal schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/illegal-religious-schools/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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