School Registration Bill Worries Welsh Families
By: Mike Donnelly
September 24, 2012
A new bill in the Welsh Assembly proposes registration for home educated children and sparks thoughts reminiscent of the 2010 Badman Report in Great Britain.
“The Welsh government is intent on introducing compulsory registration and curriculum for homeschoolers in Wales. This is deeply worrying for much of the community,” one Welsh father told Home School Legal Defense Association.
British homeschoolers joined together not long ago to resist another effort to introduce a complex monitoring scheme for home educated children, influenced by the notorious report from Graham Badman, a former managing director of children, families and education in the British county of Kent. HSLDA previously reported that the bill from 2010 would have granted almost complete discretion to public authorities to terminate homeschool programs and to have almost unrestricted access to the homes of British homeschoolers. It appears that homeschoolers in Great Britain may have a similar bill to oppose in the Welsh government’s 2012–13 Legislative Programme.
“Local authorities need to keep track of home educated children,” Welsh government officials state in a Consultation Document about the proposed home education regulations, adding that they “need to assess that [students] are learning the right skills for their age and ability.”
The Welsh government website states that a new education bill for Wales will introduce a number of proposals, including the registration of children of compulsory school age who are home educated. Registration would include a mandatory meeting with the local authorities at which time authorities could refuse to register a family, placing them at greater risk of legal problems. The Consultation Document lists reasons for refusal of registration, which include the failure of a parent to “cooperate with monitoring,” which is expected to occur annually and “likely … [at] the place of education” i.e at the home.
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international relations, is concerned about the similarities between this and the previous bill introduced in English Parliament in 2010.
“Both proposed bills leave it to the discretion of the local authorities whether a program of home education is suitable and may continue,” notes Donnelly. “In addition, both leave open the distinct possibility of home visits under the pretext of annual assessments.”
Welsh homeschoolers currently operate according to Section 7 of the Education Act for England and Wales which states: “[E]fficient full-time education, suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special education needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” Under the “or otherwise” phrase in the law, families can legally homeschool and are not required to notify authorities. Approximately 750 children are currently home educated in Wales with tens of thousands of additional children in other parts of Great Britain.
Donnelly notes the disconcerting trend of some governments to increase control over families in the area of education.
“The tension between the interests of the state and the interests of parents is becoming increasingly tenuous,” states Donnelly. “Unless checked, education bureaucrats seem determined to introduce measures to unnecessarily regulate and limit the right of parents to direct the education of their children. That is why the upcoming Global Home Education Conference (GHEC 2012) is being held in Germany in November. We stood with British homeschoolers in 2010 while the draconian Badman Report proposals were introduced, and we will support Welsh families as needed and desired by them now as they seek to influence the proposed education bill."