Council’s homeschooling plan ‘illegal infringement of rights’
Wed, 7 Jan 2015
Homeschooling parents in a London borough are campaigning against council plans to impose an annual home visit to monitor their children, saying it contravenes their parental rights.
The group of Westminster parents accused the local authority of mistrusting them, and said non-compliant families may be taken to court over the issue.
The council wants to visit families who are educating their children at home once a year, in order to “look after the welfare of children”.
But Leslie Barson, who homeschooled her two children, denied that this is a “safeguarding issue”.
She commented: “There is no duty on a local authority to approve home education – it’s a parental responsibility. This is about approving and monitoring.
“I feel an inspection is an illegal infringement of my rights as a parent. The law says I’m responsible for my children’s education.
“The authority’s responsibility starts if there’s evidence of a problem or a concern. They think our children are at risk because they are not being seen daily by a teacher. But children are not safe just because they are at school.”
Mother-of-five Rachel Graham explained: “It’s a general mistrust of the population”, adding with irony that homeschooling parents are being seen as “terrorists” rather than citizens.
She continued: “If you have got someone coming into your home to look at what you are doing, they are making a judgment. But who are they? You don’t know what their background is or who they are.”
Abuse of power
And fellow campaigner Helen White, a former teacher who home educates her children, said: “Everything is: ‘We do not trust the parent. You have to prove to us you are innocent. You have to do it on our terms.’ I find it quite insulting, to be honest. It’s an abuse of their power.”
Local authorities are not legally obliged to monitor the quality of home education on a regular basis, but under the Education Act 1996 they can become involved if it transpires that parents are failing to provide suitable education.
In 2010, the Labour Government dropped plans to restrict the freedoms of homeschooling parents.
Under the proposals, officials would have been allowed to interview children one-to-one about their home education, and if parents objected local authorities could have revoked their homeschooling registration.