French Anti-Islamism Proposals Include Banning Home Education

Macron’s speech sounds a wake-up call for UK home educators to value the freedom they have, and do all they can to protect it!

What’s been said?

On 2 October home schooling featured in reports on a key speech by French President Emmanuel Macron about measures contained in a new bill to be put before the French parliament in January. These aim to combat what is seen to be “the growing influence of radical Islamism” in the country.

RFI, a French news and current affairs public radio station broadcasting worldwide, headlined their report “Macron denounces Islamists’ politico-religious project in France.” The issue of “parallel” or “counter societies” is addressed first, citing comments from political scientist Paul Vallet about it being easier for Islamists to create counter societies in certain neighbourhoods than for “the state to carry out its normal duties.”

Next it is noted that “All schools in France, even those which are not run by the government, are expected to teach a range of subjects and abide by French law…” The report also quotes Macron’s allusion to the closure of one religious school which had fallen foul of this rule.

However, the aspect of greatest concern to home educators in all European countries is that:

“Home schooling is to be banned, to try to reduce the numbers of children who are withdrawn from government-run schools… Unless there are medical or health reasons, from September 2021 every child must attend a school from the age or [sic] three.”

A report by Reuters covers very similar ground, and comments thus on how the new law would deal with the potential problem of home education:

“Under the new law, home-schooling would be severely restricted to avoid children being ‘indoctrinated’ in unregistered schools that deviate from the national curriculum, he [Macron] said.”

The BBC also covered Macron’s speech on 3 October under the title France’s Macron vows to fight ‘Islamist separatism’, and makes reference to home schooling “restrictions.”

Why does it matter?

For those home educating in France, this is clearly a matter of great concern. You can read more about the present regulations governing home education in many countries of Europe, including France, on Euro Home Ed’s dedicated pages.

For those home educating elsewhere, these reports demonstrate how important it is to be aware of what is going on in the wider arena, rather than focusing only on their own area of the UK.

As it contains other wide-ranging measures, the French Bill is likely to encounter opposition before passing into law. However, the fact that home education has even featured in it is a worrying sign for family freedom elsewhere, especially in Europe. If Macron’s proposed restrictions on home education are carried, the precedent will have been set, and other governments will be emboldened to try the same thing.

The issues in the UK are slightly different to those in France, but we have already witnessed many instances of similar clashes between opposing interests. State mission creep has been a feature of the UK elective home education landscape for many years, with either local authority staff, parliamentarians or other lobby groups persistently pressing for greater and greater state intrusion into areas traditionally and legally viewed as familial responsibilities.

Note well that concerns about illegal schools, rising numbers of children in home (rather than state) education and the potential problem of “parallel” societies have all previously been raised here in the UK by those who oppose HE. Our piece The Myth of HE Radicalisation from July 2018 traces the development in this country of arguments similar to Macron’s – as well as the absence of evidence to justify them. Earlier the same year, we commented here and here on the negative effect such alarmism has had on many Muslim families.

Since then, other factors from the wider political scene such as off-rolling, exclusion, lack of SEN provision and now issues associated with the pandemic have been used to further muddy the waters. The conflation of all these topics makes it impossible to have a sensible discussion about elective home education with civil servants and politicians without first encountering uninformed prejudice.

What can I do?

As far as the point raised in the last paragraph is concerned, make every effort to define your terms clearly, both in writing and in conversation. Media are notoriously bad at this. The average listener or reader does not “get” the difference between elective home education and pandemic “schooling at home,” for example.

Wake up to the fact that in this fast-moving global society, what happens in one nation quickly influences what happens in another. Whatever the eventual outcome for Macron’s proposals, the fact they were even suggested has set a precedent which will not have gone unnoticed by opponents of HE in the UK.

The mentality amongst state employees that they can encroach on family life and impose their own interpretation of the law around EHE is commonplace. This mindset needs to be challenged firmly.

Holding the line as set out in law and retaining our liberty to home educate without unwarranted state interference must be a priority. Regaining lost ground is much harder than retaining it in the first place.

Therefore it is important for as many people as possible to make constructive and well-reasoned submissions to the House of Commons Education Committee’s Call for Evidence, which closes on 6 November. (We will be providing further comment on that as soon as possible.)