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Parents hit out at plans to increase oversight of home education

Parents hit out at plans to increase oversight of home education
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Parents who home-school their children have hit out at government proposals to increase oversight of home education, saying they undermine parental rights and cast suspicion on those who choose not to put their children in school.

They were responding to plans, published by the Department for Education on Tuesday, intended to address what is seen by some in the sector as an unusually permissive approach to children being educated outside mainstream schooling.

Among the measures under consideration is a compulsory register of home-educated children, with the threat of penalty or prosecution for parents who refuse to comply. In a separate measure, ministers are also considering introducing fines for schools if they “off-roll” challenging or problematic children by persuading parents to home-educate.

Many in the home education community are opposed to a register, claiming it will not make children any safer. They are also concerned that the proposals, if approved, will strangle the home education movement in England, which they regard as a vital alternative to state education.

Eileen Tracy, who has been locked in a dispute with Westminster council over the home education of her 12-year-old daughter Lilian, who starred in the West End stage show Matilda last year, said: “Registers don’t make people safe.

“If registration made kids safe then no school children would self-harm, suffer abuse, develop eating disorders, turn to crime or commit suicide. We know that most UK children are in poor mental health despite being registered already. Let’s not waste public resources on yet more of what doesn’t work.”

The home education lobby also accuses the government of wrongly conflating the problem of illegal schools with home schooling. The schools watchdog Ofsted has raised concerns that illegal schools are exploiting what it has described as “unusually permissive” rules governing the education of children outside mainstream schools, putting pupils at risk of radicalisation.

Elizabeth Lil, who has two children – a 19-year-old daughter who is in school after nine years of home schooling and a son, 13, still in home education – said: “Home education and home-educated children are not a problem. There’s no evidence to suggest that they are. Unregistered schools are being conflated with home education.

“These proposals are very worrying because they undermine basic human rights – privacy, freedom of association and the ability to educate your children as you would wish.

“Also, the government doesn’t want to admit the reasons that home education numbers are rising – it’s not to do with radicalisation, it’s because schools are failing ever greater numbers of children.”

Estimates suggest around 45,500 children in England are currently being home-educated, but the real figure is likely to be much higher. Children who enter the school system have to deregister if their parents elect to home educate but children who are never put into school are currently not required to register.

“Instead of strangling home education and viewing home-educating parents as suspect and in need of state control, the UK could celebrate that we provide a cost-effective way for children to become educated in a way adapted to a world in need of free-thinkers and workers who can think outside the box,” said Tracy.

“The UK’s existing laws on home education are second to none. Existing powers afforded to councils are spelled out the government’s excellent and very precise and considered guidelines to local authorities on elective home education. These already give councils ample powers‎.”

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