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December 21, 2015

Grinchy Government Decries “Scandal” of Unregistered Homeschoolers

Mike Donnelly Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly is HSLDA’s director of global outreach.

With an estimated 50-100,000 children being educated at home, the United Kingdom has a large homeschool community. But now the Independent, a London newspaper, reports that a top government official is arguing that homeschoolers need more oversight.

The Independent reported that Neil Carmichael, chairman of the Education Select Committee, has called it a scandal that homeschooled children are not forced to register.

“I find it absolutely amazing people who are home educated are not registered as being home educated,” Carmichael was quoted as saying. “It’s an absolute scandal that should not be allowed.”

Lucy Powell, the Labor Party’s education leader, also told the Independent that the lack of requirements on homeschoolers was a “worrying weak spot for the government.”

A third senior government source reportedly said, “There has always been the freedom in this country for people to educate their children at home. Many people do it very well. But we need to know where the children are and to be certain that they are safe. For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling their child’s mind with poison. We just don’t know. We don’t have reliable figures.”

Ghost of Critics Past

HSLDA saw similar calls for homeschool oversight in the 2009 Badman report. Conducted under the Labor government in the U.K., the report called for significant new regulation of homeschooling. Fortunately a change in government in 2010 brought that effort to a halt. But under the current Conservative government, homeschoolers are growing concerned about their prospects of retaining freedom from government regulation.

HSLDA Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said the U.K.’s current legal approach to home education recognizes the inherent right of parents to decide how their children are educated.

“In the face of growing statism in all of Europe, it is marvelous how John Locke’s ideas about the role of the government in education have survived in the United Kingdom,” Donnelly said. “British parents who choose home education have no requirement to inform the government or to submit to any government oversight. About 11 of the several states have similar regulations. I can understand why homeschoolers in the U.K. would be very concerned about this kind of talk.”

Some of the current critics of homeschool freedom have targeted specific areas for oversight.

Accountable to the Government?

Powell told the Independent that it is completely unacceptable for children to be “exposed to narrow curriculums, misogynist, homophobic and anti-Semitic material.” She added, “We urgently need robust local oversight and accountability of all local schooling, regardless of type, so that communities can work together to improve standards and stop children from ending up in harm’s way.”

HSLDA has reported similar comments by some lawmakers and academics in the United States. But no matter where they pop up, Donnelly said, they need to be addressed.

“The world is a small place, and bad ideas like this travel quickly,” he said. “As the world’s largest homeschool advocacy organization we are committed to fighting for freedom wherever and whenever it is threatened. Despite the many successes of home education, there are many who remain hostile to it. These opponents seek greater government control over children and are suspicious of parents. We continue to see this in the United States. We’ve been successful at fighting back against government intrusion, but the fight requires constant vigilance.”

U.K. homeschooling advocate Fiona Nicholson told the Independent that she is against registration: “You can disagree with lots of ways parents bring up their children but until a crime has been committed, or there is a substantial child-protection issue, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business. It’s more than a slippery slope, it’s off a precipice really.”

Most of HSLDA’s work to defend homeschooling freedom takes place in the United States, which is home to well over 75% of the world’s homeschoolers. Our global outreach efforts are directed at helping new homeschooling movements and defending against encroachments like this that could potentially threaten our freedoms. Homeschooling is a growing movement that deserves a strong defense. Please consider joining with HSLDA to defend freedom here and around the world. Join now >>