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Unregistered schools and out of school settings

Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) is committed to offering all children a school place in a safe and positive environment.

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 Gloucestershire County Council is working together with the DfE, Ofsted and other organisations to help ensure children receive a suitable education in the correct environment.

What makes a school unregistered?

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

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

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

What is 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 is the issue of unregistered schools 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 can I 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 contact 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.

If your query is urgent, please contact the GCC schools safeguarding team on 01452 426221 or by e-mail to

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