In America it is flourishing, in Germany it is banned, and in Britain home schooling is about to come under closer government control to ensure that families are not using home tuition as a cover for abuse. Parents will soon be required to register their child with their local authority, as is standard in many European countries.

Some 20,000 children are already registered as home-educated, but the actual number could be three or four times as high, as parents who have never sent their child to school are not compelled to tell the authorities.

A review by a child protection expert revealed that a very small number of home-educated children had suffered harm. However, education minister Ed Balls says the government is also concerned that the “relatively high proportion of home-educated children who have special educational needs and others who need or want to access services” should be able to do so. "And most importantly we will ensure all children receive the kind of high-quality education that they need to succeed, and that local authorities provide the right support to home educators."

Mr Balls says that "home education is a well-established and important part” of Britain’s education system. He has spoken of

“the need to strike the right balance between two important principles: giving parents the right to decide how and where their children should be educated – because I am clear that parents bring up their children, not government – and ensuring that every child gets the education they need to help them fulfil their potential.”

Home schooling representatives are wary of compulsory registration, one describing it as “an extraordinary invasion of the family”, but parents who are doing a good job at home probably have nothing to fear. British authorities have their faults, but then so do parents, and some official oversight could benefit vulnerable children.

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet