By Hilary White

LONDON, June 11, 2009 ( – Under newly announced Labour government rules, local council authorities are authorized to enter private homes to interview children, without parents present, on their safety and “quality of education.” The new regulations have raised fears among Britain’s homeschooling community of a government attack on the rights of parents to educate their children at home.

Families will be forced to register with authorities and could face criminal penalties if they are deemed to be inadequately educating their children. The compulsory program will be administered by local councils who will visit parents intending to homeschool within one month of registration. Parents and guardians, the rules say, “must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.”

Homeschooling groups said they are “absolutely devastated” at the news. Annette Taberner, from the advocacy group Education Otherwise, 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.”

A government review, that has been fully adopted, said that council authorities should have the right of access with just two weeks notice. Under the new rules, councils can impose compulsory school attendance orders based on home visit assessments.

Maria Haynes, a homeschooling mother in Cheshire County told that in her view this latest wave of government pressure is just the beginning. Mrs. Haynes said, “They’re really just trying to get their claws on us.”

At the moment in Britain, homeschoolers are free to educate their children at home without restrictive government involvement. Under the current law, children in Britain must be educated, but the act does not require that they attend school. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 of England and Wales on “compulsory education” says it is the “duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age. The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education … either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”

Mrs. Haynes said that it is on this crucial clause, “or otherwise,” that homeschoolers base their legal right to educate their children at home. It is this clause therefore, she said, that is most clearly threatened by Britain’s heavily statist government.  

Mrs. Haynes particularly pointed to a program in the UK’s schools formerly called “Connexions” and recently renamed “Every Child Matters” in which she says the school system works to break down ties between parents and children in favor of the state and secularist ideology. It is this program, she said, that the government would like to see extended to homeschooled children.

Referring to the struggles of homeschooling families in Germany where the practice is outlawed and parents have been jailed, she said that there are fears that the new rules are “the beginning of going down that sort of avenue.”