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Definition of Independent School

Page history last edited by starkfamily1@... 16 years, 7 months ago

Definition of Independent School Consultation Response


After the failure by the DfES to get through their proposals to define "full-time education", Def full time education the DCSF brought out a new consultation to try and cause certain types of education provision to have to register as an independent school. On the face of it, it appears that home education will not be affected because the proposals specify that they will not affect  "education supervised or delivered by parents". However, some home educators will find that enough of their provision could not be thus described and therefore find themselves in a situation where their child is attending education provision that has to become registered as a school - and all that this would entail.


Here is the response of AHEd members to the consultation on the definition of an independent school

(response identifier is 35.)




AHEd Response:


Action for Home education






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Checked Voluntary Organisation

Action for Home Education, (AHEd) is a group of home educators and supporters working for the rights and freedoms of home educating families.

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Consultation Questions



1 Do you agree with the proposal to expand the definition of an independent school to include settings which are the main organiser of a programme of education for children of compulsory school age, subject to a number of exclusions to be set out in regulations? 


Checked Disagree



DCSF concluded from the previous, related consultation that "Registering providers of `the majority of a childĀ“s educationĀ“ was probably unworkable as this definition was imprecise". AHEd contend that "settings which are the main organiser of a programme of education for children of compulsory school age" is equally imprecise and vulnerable to similar misunderstandings which would disadvantage home eduators.


Excluding "education supervised or delivered by parents" is not broad enough to cover all forms of elective home education and therefore risks some home educators having to register as independent schools.


This question describes "expanding" the definition of an independent school, whereas the proposal describes "adjusting" the definition which is very different. If merely adjusted, the proposed definition also removes the provision that an independent school is a school which provides full-time education for five or more pupils, or at least one pupil for whom a statement is maintained under section 324, or who is looked after by a local authority, greatly increasing the risk of affecting elective home educators.



2 Do you agree with the proposed list of types of provision to be excluded?

Checked Disagree




a) As mentioned in 1, above; excluding "education supervised or delivered by parents" is not broad enough to cover all forms of elective home education and therefore risks some home educators having to register as independent schools.


b) Home tutorial services that are not organised by a local authority may also not need to be registered as an independent school.


c) Excluding institutions providing arbitrary number of hours, that are not even related to the widely accepted guidance on full-time school hours, is nonsense. These hours are low enough to include too many private provisions including some affecting elective home educators. All schools are already defined in Sections 2 and 4 of the Education Act 1996 as institutions providing full-time education. If this proposal goes ahead and the other settings are included, it effectively redefines "full-time" for independent schools as being greater than 12.5 (primary) or greater than 15 (secondary) hours education which would have implications for all schools and parents



3 Are there any settings that you feel should not be included and if so, why? 




Yes. Any setting utilised exclusively by parents who are electively home educating their children regardless of hours offered/utilised.



4 Are there any settings that you feel should be included and if so, why?




No. DCSF have not produced any meaningful evidence that an alteration to the definition of an independent school is either necessary or desirable. Rationale for the change includes the idea that DCSF need "to draw the boundaries between independent schools and other provision in a way that there was clarity as to which regulatory regime applied in different cases;"


These boundaries are already clear and no evidence has been offered to demonstrate that anyone has had difficulty applying them.



5 Have you any other comments?






AHEd members are opposed to any measures which reduce the options of home educating parents to provide an education that is suitable to their child's age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs they may have in a way that they feel is suitable for that child, otherwise than at school. We feel that some of the terms of this consultation are ambiguous and, in particular, that the requirement for this intervention is unclear. This intervention appears to us to be unnecessary and officious.





It is unclear what is meant by the definition of an independent school as the "main organiser of a programme of education for children of compulsory school age." Home educators may utilise independently arranged programmes of education or form their own in association with other home educators where, for that period, the parent is not the main organiser or supervisor of the programme of educational activity. Attempts to register these provisions as independent schools would not make sense and would restrict free association and co-operation of home educators.Independent private tutors, after school activity groups and co-operative study groups may also be targeted if an ambiguous definition of an independent school becomes applicable.




It is not clear whether the inclusion of a number of hours as part of the definition of a school is a move away from the existing, informally agreed number of hours recommended for a school, or an attempt to encompass part time provision in the independent sector within the definition of "school" by changing the existing informal agreement of what constitutes full time education in a school, for the purpose of registering other provision.




This is a matter of concern for AHEd members as it would appear either to introduce a new legal definition of schools, in relation to the number of hours of instruction, or expand the definition of school away from full time educational provision to include part time only and other provisions. This is potentially the thin end of a wedge of a government take over bid of all independent educational provisions for children, to which we would be entirely opposed. If private organisations that are not providing a full time education are to be registered as schools, we are concerned that children who use such an establishment as a part of their educational provision but who are home educated, will be defined both as registered pupils at a school and educated otherwise than at school.




AHEd members are opposed to the restriction of independent provisions by registering them as a school where they are not. The current definition of a school includes that it provides a full time education. Therefore an organisation in the independent sector should only be registered as a school where it provides a full time school education. The boundaries between an independent school and other provision is, in our view, already clear. The department has given no good reason for changing definitions of an independent school.




DCSF concluded from the previous, related consulation that "Home educators were concerned that they would have to register as independent schools" and use this as rationale for introducing these new proposals. However, that concern will not arise if they do not go ahead with the proposals of the previous consultation on the definition of full-time AND will remain if they go ahead with these proposals, because of the risk to informal shared arrangements made by electively home educating parents around the country who are providing a suitable education in the terms of the Education Act 1996. There is no evidence to show they are not or that they need any further legislative management.



Further, DCSF state that these proposals are put forward because "We needed more clarity over the treatment of local authority commissioned alternative provision". However, it is unclear how these proposals provide any clarity above that which we already have, that alternative provision such as hospital schools and home tutorial services provided by a local authority are NOT independent schools? What evidence is there that more clarity on this matter is required?



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