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Is the government trying to regulate out of school settings?

The government has opened a new consultation to discuss regulating education groups outside of a school setting. Safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight share what the implications may be and how we can respond.

“Far reaching” and “bureaucratic”. That’s how Simon McCrossan, head of public policy at the Evangelical Alliance, described the government proposals for regulation on home education and all out of school education settings.

At the moment these proposals remain in the consultation stage. It is unclear exactly who will be affected and what will be expected of groups that fall under this new possible regulation. This ambiguity has concerned Christian groups including the Evangelical Alliance. They are particularly angry that these plans bear a “striking resemblance” to previously rejected plans to regulate activities like Sunday school. 

We asked thirtyone:eight – a leading charity for supporting churches in safeguarding – what practical steps churches can make to ensure they are prepared, should government bring in any regulations. Justin Humphreys, executive director of the organisation said this:

“The current consultation regarding Children not in School provides an important opportunity to engage with an issue that is affecting an increasing number of children today. The government is articulating what I believe to be a legitimate concern for the quality and content of education and support being provided to children who are not in state or independent registered settings. The consultation makes it clear that it is concerned to understand the experience of children who may be attending unknown provision 'during school hours'. This timeframe is important as it clearly indicates that activities being provided to children outside of school hours are outside scope for this proposed legislation.

“What is also important to understand is that this consultation is seeking to gain views about what opportunities there might be to firstly, know who these children are and secondly, know what kind of settings they may be attending. Such children are those that are not in state or independent schools, but are attending unknown education settings about whom little is known. I would agree that where current arrangements enable heightened vulnerabilities and risks to occur in the lives of children, change must take place to achieve better safeguards and assurances as to the quality and nature of the education they are receiving.

“I would urge all those concerned about the safeguarding and education of children to engage constructively with this consultation.  I would encourage people to read the consultation document for themselves, understand it fully and respond to the consultation based upon their own understanding.  This, I believe, is the best way of ensuring the issues are given proper consideration, and that a breadth of views and opinions are sufficiently gathered.

“I believe that what this consultation offers is a fantastic opportunity to take our responsibility to engage positively and constructively with matters in which the Church has a legitimate and valuable role to play in communities across the country. If there is concern that Christian or church-based activities will come under attack from such proposals, we should first ask ourselves whether we are doing all we can to create safer places for our children. If the answer is yes and we can evidence this, we should have no fear. It is those organisations and settings which have flown under the radar and are deliberately engaging in questionable practices that would rightly need to be concerned about such proposals. We believe that is our Christian duty to do all we can to create safer places for all - that includes children who may be educated out of school in unknown settings.”

You can find out more and take part in the consultation.

Image credit: Nick Youngson