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HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL
Ireland
Ireland

October 27, 2015

State Will Isolate and Question Children about Homeschooling

Irish Homeschoolers Urgently Request Help from Global Homeschooling Community

Support Homeschoolers in Ireland

Please take a few moments to support families in Ireland in two important ways.

1. Sign the petition started by Irish homeschoolers to ask Tusla’s director, Gordon Jeyes, to postpone the workshops until Tusla meets with representatives from the homeschool associations to discuss their concerns.

2. Visit Tusla’s website to answer the agency’s short survey. It is very important to indicate “None” in response to each question to support homeschoolers in expressing that more oversight is unnecessary. The survey should take less than a minute to complete.

Thank you for your support for Irish homeschoolers!

As part of its plan to develop new ways to assess Irish homeschoolers, a government agency recently tasked with the job wants to interview home-educated children—away from their parents.

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Officials from the Irish child and welfare agency, known by its Gaelic acronym, “Tusla,” intends to impose new regulations on Irish homeschoolers. The responsibility for overseeing home educators in Ireland was transferred about a year ago from the education ministry to the child welfare agency despite the protest and consternation of the Irish home educating community—who say that home education is a matter of education, not child safety.

The new agency caught Irish homeschoolers off guard earlier this month with a surprise invitation to help a research agency with workshops intended to gauge ways to monitor homeschoolers.

What shocked many homeschooling parents was the agency’s intention to interview children separately from their parents. In a letter to Irish homeschool organizations, officials stated that this is an attempt to hear the “children’s voice.” The agency said it intends to ask questions like: “How can Tusla find out more about what you are learning about?” and “How can Tusla find out more about what you think about your education at home?”

HSLDA Director for Global Outreach Michael Donnelly is responding to the concerns of Irish homeschool organizations and HSLDA members. This July, Donnelly spoke at a national Irish home education conference and met with leaders from numerous organizations, counseling them to be ready to resist new regulations the agency seemed likely to impose.

“I didn’t realize that the need for resistance to the new agency would come so quickly,” he said. “After consulting with Irish home education leaders, I sent a letter to the agency’s chief executive officer, requesting that the agency pause its research to get more input from the Irish community. More importantly, I told him that seeking interviews with children apart from their parents was intrusive and unnecessary.”

Leaders Respond

Peter and Ruth Redmond and Adrian Webb, leaders of the Irish Christian Home Education Association (ICHEA), also expressed concern about the process.

“We have sent a letter to Tusla,” Redmond stated, “outlining our concerns and calling for any workshops, already scheduled, to be postponed until consultations between Tusla and ourselves can commence and our objections have been dealt with. One crucial way that supporters around the world can join with us is to sign the petition we’ve started to help us reach at least 500 signatures. We would like as large a number of signatures as possible to show that there is a level of support for the Irish homeschool community.”

In an inter-agency letter sent to Tusla, Irish home education leaders are concerned that the process discriminates against home educating families.

“School-attending families are not monitored continually and neither should home educating families [be monitored],” wrote ICHEA and other representatives. “As we have had no input into the process now underway by Tusla, we are concerned that Tusla may have already made decisions without consultation, and again we request that Tusla consult with us and approach us as partners in this process that has a direct impact on our lives.”

ICHEA leadership was also critical of the idea of interviewing children separately.

“Ireland’s attempts to implement provisions from the UNCRC are leading to more state intrusion into the family.”

Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly
HSLDA Director for Global Outreach

“We believe it is highly unorthodox to have children partake in an information-building workshop without the presence of a parent or guardian and without parents having been given any indication in the invitation letter as to the nature of the workshops,” notes the letter. “We would like to know why it is felt appropriate that children as young as 6 should answer questions on issues of continual assessment when continual assessment is not a course of action that has been discussed or agreed upon (the questions being asked were later passed to support organizations).”

The UNCRC Connection

Donnelly’s letter calling on Tusla to pause and reassess its approach can be read here.

“Recent moves by the Irish government appear to be motivated by efforts to conform the Irish constitution and law to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC),” Donnelly warned. “Last year the Irish government was found to have been improperly involved in the 2012 children’s referendum that gave more power to the state to intrude in Irish families. This attempt by Tusla to have separate interviews with children is being justified to hear the ‘child’s voice’ which is clearly a reference to the UNCRC. Ireland’s attempts to implement provisions from the UNCRC are leading to more state intrusion into the family.”

Redmond and other Irish homeschoolers are looking several steps down the road. They wonder what repercussions the workshops will have on future interaction between homeschooling families and officials.

“We believe that Tusla is approaching home education with their ‘risk assessment’ hats on,” noted Redmond. “That is obvious from their choice of agency involved with these workshops. The fact that they chose a social care agency and not an educational agency speaks volumes to us as to where we stand with Tusla.”

The letter from homeschool associations to Tusla spoke in particular to the request to question children separately: “It is highly unorthodox to have children partake in an information-building workshop without the presence of a parent or guardian … Surely this [assessment] is an issue for parents and experts in home education. Children in school are not asked to give input into the running of the schools themselves.”

Irish homeschool organizations also express frustration that Tusla didn’t initiate contact with leaders in the homeschool movement prior to announcing its plans. Only individual families are requested to participate at the meetings, not individuals in their capacity as homeschool leaders.

As one leader wrote to HSLDA, “We are also disappointed that they only contacted the support groups out of courtesy and not to discuss the issues with them or to invite them to participate.”

Trend toward Increased Regulation

Families contacted by Tusla are already in compliance with current homeschool regulations and are disturbed that the agency is considering further assessments of homeschoolers. The right to homeschool is enshrined in the Irish constitution, which states: “Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes” (Article 42).

Donnelly points out the connection between Tusla’s mindset and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

“I am extremely concerned about the manner in which Tusla has initiated its review of assessment of homeschoolers and the underlying motivation behind its decision to do so,” stated Donnelly. “The Irish constitution protects the family as a sacred unit. This is another example of the negative impact of the UNCRC on freedom in education and the rights of families. Ireland’s attempt to implement provisions from the UNCRC are leading to overreach by the state into integral spheres, such as the family and education.”

Donnelly requests support for Irish homeschoolers.

“We’re asking our members and friends to help show the Irish child and family agency that Irish homeschoolers have worldwide support,” stated Donnelly. “Please sign the petition and also consider taking a survey at Tusla’s website—be sure to answer “None” to each question. Signatures and responses from thousands of homeschoolers around the world will help demonstrate that the manner in which Tusla is soliciting information is unsettling and that continual monitoring of homeschooling families is intrusive and unnecessary.”

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