Parents could be banned from educating children at home in a move branded a "very bad day for civil liberties". By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Published: 4:22PM BST 11 Jun 2009
For the first time, local councils will have the power to enter family homes and question young children, under new plans.
They will also be able to order under-16s to school if there are fears about their safety or quality of education.
Families' groups said they were "absolutely devastated" by the move, claiming it undermined their freedom to educate children beyond state control.
Annette Taberner, from the group Education Otherwise, said: "To suggest parents can continue to home educate but then give powers to local authorities to enter our homes and interview our children without an adult being present is just extraordinary. This is nothing short of an attempt to regulate the private lives of people. It is a very bad day for civil liberties in this country."
A review ordered by the Government estimated that as many as 80,000 children could be educated at home. Previous estimates put the figure between 20,000 and 50,000.
Graham Badman, former director of education at Kent County Council, who carried out the study, recommended forcing all parents to register sons and daughters with local authorities every year.
The review - accepted in full by the Government - said officials from local authorities should have the right to access their home with just two weeks' notice and speak to children to ensure they were "safe and well". They can revoke the right to home schooling if they have serious concerns over their welfare, it said.
Parents must also submit a statement outlining what children will be taught over the following 12 months.
Councils can impose a "school attendance order" if they believe the education received is not up to scratch, with parents facing legal action if they refuse.
Mr Badman said a further review would be carried out to judge the structure of an acceptable home education. Releasing the report in central London on Thursday, he suggesting children aged eight should be "competent in handling numbers, have "rudimentary" computing skills and be able to read. Lessons for those aged 11 to 16 should be based around "broad systems of knowledge", he said.
"By raising the bar in terms of entry to home education, you effectively raise the standard of education on offer," he said.
It is not yet know when the reforms will be introduced. New legislation will be needed to enforce rules on registration and local authority access to homes.
The review was launched amid fears some children educated at home could be at risk of abuse.
Mrs Taberner, a mother of two from Sheffield, said the "horrendous" suggestion had been "trotted out by the Government" to justify the crackdown.
Mr Badman's report said there was "no evidence" to suggest home education was linked to forced marriage, servitude or child trafficking.
But he claimed the overall number of children "known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of [the] home education population."