Unregistered independent schools and out of school settings

Over recent years across the UK, there has been a rise in the number of institutions operating as schools which should be registered.  Operating an unregistered school is a criminal offence and South Gloucestershire Council is working together with the Department for Education, Ofsted and other organisations to help ensure children receive a suitable education in the correct environment. 

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Unregistered independent schools

A school must be registered with Ofsted if it offers a full–time education for:

  • five or more pupils of compulsory school age, or
  • one or more pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), previously known as a statement of special educational needs, or
  • one or more pupils who are looked after (within the meaning of section 22 of the Children Act 1989).

A full-time education is considered to be 18 hours or more per seven-day week.

If a setting is operating as a school and is not registered as a school it is illegal and children may be at risk.

The risk of attending an unregistered school

Schools that are unregistered do not have to comply with the same rules and regulations that registered schools do. These rules and regulations exist to keep children safe, offer the best learning environment possible and keep educational standards as high as possible. 

Parents and guardians who send children to unregistered schools may:

  • be putting children at risk of harm
  • be denying them a suitable education
  • be limiting their life chances.

How the issue of unregistered schools is being tackled

Ofsted has a dedicated team of inspectors to identify, investigate and collect evidence about potential unregistered independent schools. Ofsted has the power to inspect suspected unregistered schools.

Between January 2016 and 31 March 2020, Ofsted’s Unregistered Schools team investigated 694 settings suspected of operating as an unregistered school. 345 inspections took place and 95 warning notices were issued. This led to 79 settings either being closed or to cease operating illegally. Some people found to be running an unregistered school have been prosecuted.

How you can help

If you are aware of an unregistered school or believe there is a possibility a setting may be operating as a school, then please complete the Unregistered independent schools reporting form and forward to: CAHBusinessSupportBMR@southglos.gov.uk. We can then ensure that the necessary checks are undertaken to establish whether the setting is operating in a way that requires it to register as a school.