New U.K. Bill Requires Homeschooled Children be Registered with Authorities
By Hilary White
LONDON, November 26, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The British government announced last week their acceptance of the Badman Review of home education and introduced the new Children, Schools and Families Bill that will require home educated children to be registered with the local authorities.
Undertaken by Graham Badman, the former Director of Children's Services at Kent County Council, the review of home education has been denounced by homeschoolers as a "stitch-up" and a "statist" piece of government propaganda.
Annette Taberner of the homeschool support organisation Education Otherwise, who met twice with Graham Badman during the course of the review, said, "In a rapidly changing world, government could learn much from the good practice of home educators - instead it has decided to bring forward legislation that will stamp it out."
Homeschooling families were furious at the review's results and say the new bill will mean the effective end of the rights of the family in education. The bill will follow recommendations that homeschooling families be subjected to spot-checks by local authorities, and that authorities can interview homeschooled children without the presence of their parents.
Taberner said, "To suggest parents can continue to home educate but then give powers to local authorities to enter our homes and interview our children without an adult being present is just extraordinary. This is nothing short of an attempt to regulate the private lives of people.
"It is a very bad day for civil liberties in this country."
Taberner's group, along with numerous individual homeschooling families, has charged Badman with an anti-family bias and have cited poor research methods and the scarcity of evidence of the need for the changes as the basis for their complaints. At least one MP has called the new measures the preliminary to a government clampdown on homeschoolers that will be an "infringement of civil liberties."
Mark Field, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, called for a debate on the issue. Field said that despite government assurances that it had no plans to change parents' legal right to educate their children at home, his homeschooling constituents had warned that the government's "hype should not be believed."
In its announcement of the impending review in January, the government used language that linked homeschooling with child abuse. Children's minister, Baroness Delyth Morgan, said it was necessary to investigate "claims that home education could be used as a 'cover' for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude."
Mark Field told the House of Commons, "Government are manipulating current anxiety about child abuse to intrude further into home education when they have little legal right to do so."
Any action the government takes from the Badman review, Field warned, "could affect the balance of power between civil liberties and state intervention, whether one is innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent."
The government admitted, however, that it had no evidence for homeschooling being associated with abuse, merely unspecified "allegations." But the mere suggestion was enough to rile up homeschooling parents, one of whom wrote that, "Home educating parents should be entitled to the same assumption of innocence and competence that parents of schooled children enjoy until there is evidence to the contrary."
The government also said it would investigate "whether local authorities and other public agencies are able to effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities for safeguarding and ensuring a suitable education for all children." However, the law in Britain specifically says that education of children is primarily in the hands of parents, not the state.
Experts estimate that as many as 50,000 British youngsters are educated at home. Many parents have made the choice to homeschool due to increasing reports of the continued disintegration of the state-controlled school system. Parents often list bullying and the inadequacies of the state curriculum as reasons to keep their children out of schools.
Read related LSN coverage:
U.K. Government Tightens Leash on Homeschoolers: Fears Raised of Germany-Style Clampdown