Westminster council recently announced plans to keep a closer eye on home schooled children with annual home visits. Currently, education is by law a parental responsibility. Parents can choose to enrol their children into state school, or apply to educate them at home.
The Human Rights Act makes provision for the “right to respect for private and family life”. This offers some protection to home educators and has been instrumental in the failure by local authorities to regulate home education in the past. Parents who home educate fear granting access to authorities, citing examples of previous poor decision-making.
No issues were found with child protection in 2012 when an enquiry into home education was carried out by Westminster education committee. Graham Stuart MP, committee chair, criticised the fact that child safeguarding is often presented alongside home education and as such creates serious and unnecessary stigma against those parents who choose to teach their children at home. He highlighted the lack of evidence that home education increased risk factors or provided the means to hide abuse.
The Isle of Man is the only area in which home educated children are required to be recorded on a database. Unfortunately however, it seems the only outcome of this is to damage relations between education authority and parents if they fail to comply. There is no evidence that any better outcomes are achieved for the children themselves.
The Rights of the Child
While it is easy to imagine how home educators might feel bullied by local authority officials and how this bad feeling might feed into the wider community as a whole, there remains the rights of the child to receive an education and the state has a duty to promote this.
Home education is becoming a more popular option and a choice parents make for a variety of different reasons. There are now a large selection of programmes available online and offline which aim to make teaching easier for parents. For example, sites like mywordbuddy.com aim to help children who struggle to read.
The fine line between upholding the rights of the parents and those of the child creates conflict which is difficult to overcome. While home educated children should not be automatically be considered ‘at risk’, local authorities are frequently criticised for allowing abuse cases to fall under the radar.