Northern Ireland: Final day for homeschool consultation

Fri, 27 Jun 2014

A consultation on “alarming and intrusive” changes to homeschooling in Northern Ireland closes today.

Under the proposals, government officials would receive powers to visit families to monitor their home education.

Sarah Dickinson from the largest home education group in Northern Ireland, said she objected to parents being treated “as if they were a risk to their children”.

Respect

Dickinson, who speaks for Home Education Northern Ireland (HEDNI), added: “I think parents are the best advocates for their children and they should be treated with respect”.

The plans, from the Education and Library Boards in Northern Ireland, would mean parents who choose to remove their child from school would face detailed questioning and delays before being allowed to homeschool.

The draft policy also proposes a database to register and monitor homeschooling families.

Suitable

The consultation began at the end of April and closes on Friday 27 June.

It is believed the Northern Ireland minister responsible for education has been inundated with concerns from parents, according to the BBC.

The current law in Northern Ireland says parents have a duty to provide their child with an education “suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”.

Alarming

HEDNI has already warned: “The proposals are alarming and intrusive, representing a serious assault on parental choice and introducing a fundamental change to the relationship between parents and the governing authorities.

“This draft policy has no basis in current Northern Ireland education law. Any change of this sort would require primary legislation by MLAs at Stormont, not by unelected officials.

“Under national and international law it is accepted that parents are the most appropriate judge for their child’s interests – these plans cut across the rights of parents to educate their children in the way they think is best.”

Dropped

The Northern Ireland proposals are similar to controversial plans from Westminster in 2010, which also threatened to severely restrict homeschooling in England.

The 2010 proposals faced strong criticism and were dropped before the last General Election.

This content requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download Adobe Flash Player here.