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HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL
United Kingdom
United Kingdom

October 2, 2014

UK Considers another Crackdown on Homeschooling


Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly also serves as HSLDA’s director of international relations. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

The Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards have proposed new regulations that would be onerous to home educating families. Although some have protested that the boards lack the jurisdiction to initiate such a policy change, the boards recently concluded a public consultation where interested parties were invited to weigh in on the issues. HSLDA believes that the policy under consideration violates fundamental human rights: liberty, parental rights and privacy within the home.

The proposed policy would grant government agents sweeping power over homeschooling in Northern Ireland. Pointing to “requirements” imposed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the policy would insist that government assessors seek the “opinion of the child” to determine whether or not parents are providing a suitable education. The policy would also mandate home visits, registration requirements and other unnecessary bureaucracy. The policy undermines the rights of parents and families to be free from unwarranted and unreasonable government interference and shows how UN treaties can be interpreted in a way that threatens educational freedom and privacy wherever they are adopted.

Renewed Threat

This is the second time in five years that homeschoolers in the United Kingdom have had to defend their freedom. In 2009, the labor government then in power commissioned Graham Badman to write a report about home education. The report called for significant new controls.

Home education in the United Kingdom does not require contact between the government and families. As long as children are being educated parents are in compliance with the law. However, the Badman report called for significant new oversight including visits, assessments, and discretionary review and interviews with children. The report’s recommendations were not followed because there was a change in national government shortly before the legislation could be voted on. The Northern Ireland proposals are similar in scope and intrusion.

HSLDA wrote in support of homeschoolers at the time of the Badman report, and we have also written in support of Northern Ireland’s homeschool community. HSLDA has written a response to the local Education and Library Boards demonstrating the issues with the proposed policy. You can read our response here.

Rights at Risk

We believe that the proposed policy would violate international law and the fundamental human rights of parents and their children by granting unreasonable access to the home. This specifically would violate the right of privacy guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights and other European treaties.

The policy would implement a lengthy and bureaucratic process of approval and curriculum review. It also would implement a tracking system and database which violates the fundamental right to privacy of families and children. The proposed scheme of annual monitoring is also unnecessarily invasive.

The policy interferes with families by requiring unnecessary and invasive questioning of children by government agents without cause. Finally, the policy prevents children being withdrawn from school until a lengthy evaluation is undertaken. This constitutes an extreme burden on families and presents a significant risk to children who are in danger in school.

In sum, these proposed policies constitute a clear and unreasonable violation of human rights against parents who choose to educate their children at home as explicitly provided for by law and protected by international human rights norms.

You can read our previous update about this situation here.

Local Advocacy

Spearheading the local response is a homeschool group, Home Education Northern Ireland (HEdNI). They are leading a campaign against the Northern Ireland Elective Home Education Policy. They are encouraging Northern Ireland homeschoolers to attend focus groups organized by the local EBS to oppose the legislation and to contact their politicians.

Should the proposed policy be implemented, it would apply to all of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is divided into five different Educational Board regions. Each of these regions are considering the exact same policy. Now that public consultation has closed, the Educational Boards will make their decision as to whether homeschooling continues in freedom or becomes weighed down with restriction.

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s United Kingdom page.

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