Dozens of investigations into suspected illegal schools have taken place in the West Midlands – with Ofsted warning thousands of children are being denied a “proper education”.
New figures published by the education watchdog for the first time reveal that 75 investigations took place across the region between the start of 2016 and the end of 2018.
An investigation begins when Ofsted receives a referral about the legality of a school.
If it is felt there is a risk the school is operating outside of the law then Ofsted will send an inspector to investigate.
Thirty-five of the reported schools in the West Midlands, or just under half, were inspected.
The watchdog handed 12 schools in the region with a warning notice – meaning they were found to be operating illegally.
Places of learning must register as a school if they provide full-time education to at least five children of compulsory school age, or one child who is looked after by the local authority or who has special educational needs.
While the outcomes of the warning notices were not published at a regional level, across England 15 illegal schools have been forced to closed and 39 have changed the way they are run to comply with the law.
Victor Shafiee, deputy director of Ofsted said: “These settings deny children a proper education and can leave them at risk of harm.
“The problem here is first and foremost about safeguarding.
“Many of these places are unsafe – with poor facilities and hygiene, badly trained or untrained staff, who may not have had any employment checks made on them, and little care for children’s health and well-being.’
“Ofsted is calling for extra powers to allow inspectors to collect evidence they find in unregistered schools.”
The inspectors suggested that around 6,000 children across England are being taught in these unregulated settings.