Home education in Ireland is still in its infancy, but as the movement continues to grow, we have noticed an increased interest by the State in that there are moves afoot by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) to introduce ongoing monitoring of home educators.
The NEWB has only a few ‘welfare officers’ employed directly to carry out the registration inspections and oversee the whole ‘home education sector.’ Unfortunately, as a result of government austerity measures, a lot of the inspections are subcontracted to retired school teachers and similar other people who are totally deficient and ignorant as to the rights of home educators. As a result, a lot of erroneous advice has been given to home educators—to new home educators in particular.
Cork Christian Homeschool Co-op Christmas Choir
On January 1, 2014, the Child and Family Agency was established by the Government and the functions and services previously provided by the NEWB are now part of this new agency.
This, in our view, is a retrograde step. It dilutes the profile and importance of home education and demonstrates a certain contempt by the government in lumping it in with such services as ‘Child Welfare and Protection Services’!
It is the view of ICHEA that home education should naturally be under the auspices of the Department of Education. We will continue to engage with the authorities on this. As the overall trend in Europe is toward a more restrictive and oppressive attitude toward home educators, in particular in countries like Germany and Sweden, we will be keeping a close eye on the situation, ever mindful of the fact that the European Union is seeking greater uniformity amongst member states on virtually all laws, but in particular anything to do with family and social values.
The legal background for home education in Ireland is found in the Irish Constitution and Education Act:
- The right to home educate is enshrined in Article 42 of the Irish Constitution, which states:
- The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.
- Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes.
- The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 provided for the establishment of the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) and requires children to be registered with the NEWB.
- Ireland has a population of 4 million
- 850 home educated students currently registered with the NEWB
- Approximately 500 unregistered students
- Home education is the fastest growing education sector in Ireland
- Ireland is one of the most home educating friendly countries in the world, as a State that recognizes and supports home education
Adrian Webb, ICHEA, and Emer Farrell, NEWB, at the GHEC 2012
Irish Christian Home Educators Association (ICHEA)
In 2010, after some encouragement from the National Education Welfare Board to create an organization to represent the growing number of Christian home educators, we established the Irish Christian Home Educators Association.
We aim to:
- Promote home education in Ireland as a viable alternative to traditional schooling;
- Inform and educate the general public on the benefits and blessings of home education;
- Promote sound, quality home education which addresses the spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical needs of children and contributes to their development of Christ-like character;
- Provide ongoing support and advice to home educators on legal issues and their rights;
- Work with the National Education Welfare Board to ensure that the freedoms of home educators are protected, lobby with regards to legislation, and assist with any individual member’s issues with the NEWB; and
- Aid in the creation and growth of home education support groups and/or co-ops throughout the country.
In 2011 the Cork Christian Homeschool Co-Op was founded. This group is doing a great work locally. They meet up for various events and activities on a monthly basis. Last Christmas they formed a choir, got together for regular practise and went around to old folks homes singing carols. We understand that they received a great response, and this is encouraging.
Renee Metcalf at Writing Workshop
In 2012, we were honoured to participate at the 1st Global Home Education Conference (GHEC 2012) in Berlin. It was particularly encouraging that some representatives from the NEWB also attended the conference and participated in the event.
In 2013, in response to growing demand, we established a Facebook group. We seek to facilitate and organise various events, such as a writing workshop held during the summer of 2013 when Renee Metcalf of Inspired-Scholar.com kindly gave of her time to hold a half day workshop while on vacation from Phoenix, Arizona.
Please pray for home education in Ireland. That we will continue to enjoy the freedom we have. Pray for those who struggle and get little encouragement from family and friends. Home educators are spread thinly over a large geographical area and some feel isolated. Pray for them.
Please also pray for those parents who see their children being subjected to all that goes on at state schools and now feel desperate. This is probably the single most common issue that is now raised with us. We are getting such queries on an increasing basis. One received just this week through the ICHEA website:
I have a teenager who is very unhappy at secondary school it has destroyed her so much. I always want to home school but had no confidence in myself to do it. Is ever too late to home school?
Thank you for your prayers!
Adrian Webb is director of the Irish Christian Home Educators Association, which promotes home education in and supports and equips home educators in Ireland. He is available for contact via the ICHEA website or at +353 87223915.