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United Kingdom

April 8, 2010

Draconian Homeschool Regulations Tabled—For Now

In a statement released on April 7, the British government’s Department of Children, School and Families said it was tabling proposed regulations on homeschooling families contained in the Children, Schools and Families Bill. Officials stated that these and other “key provisions have been taken out because no agreement could be reached between government and opposition parties.”

The government said the dropped policies were meant to “strengthen Home School Agreements, making them more personalised for each pupil, and [contained] new and stronger powers to enforce parents’ responsibilities in supporting the school in maintaining good behaviour including the possibility of a court-imposed parenting order.” In reality, the bill would have granted almost unfettered discretion to public authorities to terminate homeschool programs and to have almost unrestricted access to the homes of British homeschoolers.

This is a tremendous victory for home educators in Britain who have been working tirelessly to influence legislators and to make the case that there is no need for further homeschool regulation. In defeating this measure, British homeschoolers have blunted an effort by those who seek to impose unnecessary restriction on parents who home educate. Britain remains among the freest European countries for home educators. Many German families have fled persecution in Germany to the United Kingdom to enjoy its free environment for home education.

Many homeschoolers in America will remember the notorious “Badman Report” that was accepted by the British government and that recommended imposing draconian regulations on British homeschoolers. This report was motivated in large part by the author’s interpretation of Britain’s “responsibilities as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” American homeschoolers, indeed all homeschoolers around the world, should be forewarned about the harm this treaty can do in interfering with the relationships between parents and children and in usurping the responsibility of parents to decide what is best for their children.

HSLDA congratulates all of those organizations, including the national homeschool organizations Education Otherwise and the Home Service, as well as other advocacy groups including the Family Education Trust, Christian Concern for our Nation, and the Christian Legal Centre. These and many other local organizations, along with British homeschoolers, worked persistently to influence their parliament to oppose these restrictions. Many of the Britain’s current opposition parties united to support freedom for parents to be free from unwarranted government intrusion as well!

The British Parliament is currently dissolved. The outcome of elections May 6 will determine whether the tabled homeschool provisions will be resurrected in the next parliament.

Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust congratulated all who were involved in the fight.

“Home educators came together in great numbers and made their voices heard to an extent that even some members of the government’s own party were against the sweeping nature of the proposed restrictions,” said Wells. “This is a victory for home educators in Britain.”

However, Wells cautioned home educators not to let their guard down. “Irrespective of which party wins the general election, the new administration will be placed under considerable pressure by bureaucrats from both local and national government to interfere with home educating families under the guise of safeguarding children’s welfare and promoting their educational rights.”

Wells noted that he thought Americans had a “bit more healthy skeptiscim of government” than his countrymen—a mind-set he wished would be more common in Britain.

Ann Newstead, spokesperson for Education Otherwise said, “We are thankful for the Select Committee’s scrutiny and for the support of hundreds of backbench MPs who— unlike the Government—actually took time to listen and to understand how completely unjustified, inappropriate and ill-conceived these proposals were.”