LGA calls for greater powers to tackle illegal schools

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to issue councils with more powers to enable them to tackle illegal schools.

The LGA has said local authorities should be allowed to enter houses and other premises which are being used as illegal schools. Currently, council staff can only enter a premises if they have specific evidence based concerns about a child’s safety.

The news comes as concerns over the spread of illegal schools have increased, with the government claiming it was ‘cracking down’ on unregistered schools.

Illegal schools are defined by those which offer over 20 hours of lessons a week which are not registered with the Department for Education (DfE), the local council or Ofsted.

In addition there are mounting fears that some illegally operating schools may contribute towards extremists ideologies, while others may be teaching pupils in dangerous and unsafe buildings.

Councillor Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "In some cases, a child listed as home-schooled can, in fact, be attending an illegal school.

"With limited powers to check on the work a child is doing, however, councils are unable to find out whether this is the case.

"They work closely with their communities to help identify where illegal schools are, but the ability to enter homes and other premises and speak to children would go a long way towards tackling the problem."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) responded: “A DfE spokesman said it had "taken steps to ensure the system is as robust as it can be".

"We have announced an escalation of Ofsted investigations into unregistered schools, with additional inspectors dedicated to rooting them out, a new tougher approach to prosecuting them and a call to local authorities to help identify any settings of concern."