Homeschooling in England has flourished for decades, as the law has historically given parents the freedom to choose and organize home education plans to meet the needs of every child. But a bill introduced in the British parliament, which includes a new mandatory homeschool registry, would give education bureaucrats unfettered power to impose far-reaching, intrusive, and arbitrary rules.

Old news

Currently, English education law simply requires that parents who homeschool provide a suitable education for their child; they are not required to have any formal correspondence with government authorities. To give an example from the United States, this is how homeschooling works in places such as Texas, California, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and numerous others—and the system works well.

This registry idea has been pushed by English education bureaucrats for years, on the grounds that the government needs to know about the education of every single child. But presuming that the government needs to specially monitor the education of children taught by their parents is wrong—and that presumption is certainly not a legitimate reason to gather sensitive data and intrude into the lives of private citizens. We know government bureaucrats might want this kind of power, but parliament needs to say no to this unreasonable and unnecessary proposal.

One of the reasons why a registry is being proposed is ostensibly to prevent children not in school from experiencing abuse. However, laws already exist to investigate and respond to child abuse. Adding new bureaucratic requirements for child welfare checks of home educators will only affect law-abiding citizens, as well as increase the workloads of child-protection workers, reducing the resources needed to address actual abuse cases. 

There is nothing wrong with current English law on home education and certainly no data or evidence to suggest such a significant change is needed. All evidence points to the fact that home education produces excellent academic, social, civic, and emotional outcomes.

Unprecedented power

Also troubling is the granting of virtually unfettered power to bureaucrats to demand whatever information they want and to make home visits, and the expectation that they will eventually have the authority to dictate what may or may not be taught by English parents. The US has seen what happens when Congress gives rulemaking power to unelected career bureaucrats . . . and it isn’t good!

The English Department of Education has shown its willingness to impose its own views on private schools—in particular, faith-based schools—by aggressively investigating and shutting them down because they did not toe the line on teaching what the department called “British values.” You can guess what those modern British values were all about. Are they going to do this to homeschoolers too?

What is most shocking to me is that this proposal is coming from the “conservative” party—I thought conservatives favored more freedom and less government. These English “conservatives” need to go back and read some John Locke, the regarded English philosopher whose writing inspired our own founders to embark on a war for independence and pen a declaration asserting that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed—not the other way around. Locke wrote that education was the duty of parents, not of civil government.

What free societies should look like

Thankfully the trend in the US has been in the other direction: toward more freedom, not less. In the last 20 years, 18 states have passed 27 laws to remove regulations from homeschooling families. That is because over the last three decades in which homeschooling has been recognized in all 50 states, we have seen the overwhelmingly positive impact that homeschooling has had for millions of students.

US lawmakers had access to valid research that shows that there is no correlation between more regulation and better outcomes. There is no good reason why the English government can’t learn from our experience and allow loving parents the freedom to offer each child an individualized education. As interest in homeschooling is growing around the world, free, self-governing societies can set an example of beneficial homeschool policies.

There is no legitimate government purpose in making lists of children just because they are homeschooled and government officials don’t know the details of their education. Freedom demands that government respect due process and leave its citizens alone unless there is evidence of wrongdoing. I would expect repressive governments like China, Cuba, or Venezuela to assume the worst and demand that all children be “registered”—but not countries like England. A homeschool registry is the kind of thinking that belongs in a dictatorship, not a constitutional monarchy with a self-governing parliament.