Cold comfort over home school inspection plans

In a change to Government plans, officials will not be able to insist on one-on-one interviews with home-schooled children. But parents who block interviews may find that their children are forced to attend school. Originally ministers had said they wanted to give officials an absolute right to interview home-schooled children without parents being present and regardless of the parents’ wishes. Instead the Children, Schools and Families Bill allows parents to object to one-on-one interviews where they are not present. 

But if parents do object to interviews, local authorities could revoke the registration that will be required for home schooling.

They could then issue a School Attendance Order that directs parents to send their children to a specified school.

The Government believes that local authorities need to maintain a home education register and monitor the provision of home education.

But home school groups have questioned the need for monitoring.

Leslie Barson, who organised a demonstration against Government plans in September, said at the time: “We have a lot of problems with inspectors because they know schools and that model of education isn’t very useful when you are teaching a small number of children.” 

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said earlier this year: “The plan to allow local authorities routine access to the homes of children who are educated outside the school system shows a fundamental distrust of parents.”

It is thought that between 20,000 and 50,000 children in the UK are currently being home schooled, with the practice becoming increasingly popular.

In September 2009 it was reported that an American court had ordered a home-schooled child to attend a Government-run school.

The court conceded that the ten-year-old from a Christian home was bright, sociable and academically advanced for her age.

However the court decided she should no longer be home schooled simply because, according to her mother’s attorney, her “religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held” and needed to be “mixed among other worldviews”.

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