The new chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, Graham Stuart, has slammed a report by Ofsted on home education.
The report, Local Authorities and Home Education, was published today and calls for more legal rights for local authorities to access home-educated children and monitor their progress.
But Stuart criticised the report and said that comments made by Osted's chief inspector Christine Gilbert in response to the report were "deeply concerning".
"It is astonishing that the chief inspector of schools should stray onto home education and get it so wrong. In Ofsted's official press release she [Gilbert] says that 'it is extremely challenging for local authorities to meet their statutory duty to ensure children have a suitable education', when they have no such duty," he said. "Parents, not the state, have the statutory duty to ensure that their children have a suitable education."
The report claims that many local authorities struggle to obtain comprehensive information on home-educated children in their area, accusing some families of being uncooperative. It recommends that parents should be legally required to register with local authorities if they home educate, and should be subject to compulsory annual home visits.
But Stuart argued that in order to ensure all children get a suitable education local authorities should "serve and support" home educators rather than "catalogue and moniter" them.
"The obvious and correct answer is for local authorities to improve their support for families so that more families make contact with them voluntarily," he added. "If they did this and made sure that they employed sympathetic staff who built good reputations, then the number of 'unknown' children would be reduced."