What’s been said?
Two sets of home educating parents on the Isle of Man commissioned experienced social worker Allan Norman to write a report for them, (Appendix 2 p31ff) because of concerns about proposed changes to legislation affecting home education. Although his report is specific in some instances to the Isle of Man (which already has compulsory EHE registration) the general principles of the human rights framework which he sets out are applicable to all home educators. He is experienced in this field, having argued that Scotland’s Named Person scheme breached human rights law before the Supreme Court ruled that to be the case.
There are 3 aspects of human rights which work together in defining the rights and roles of parents, children and the state in matters of home education. They are the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention: enshrined in the Human Rights Act), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the Declaration). See here
Why does it matter?
A child’s right to an education is stated in Article 28 UNCRC: “States Parties recognize the right of the child to education”. Education itself is a child’s right, not a parent’s. A parent’s right rests in the choice of provision, as stated in Article 26 of the Declaration: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” – it is a right, not a responsibility or a duty.
So what are children to be taught? Article 29 UNCRC is clear about this, too. Education is: “the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential” and “the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society”. It does not specify how this is to be achieved. It simply says that the needs of the child must be met, and any education should lead to an understanding of rights and freedoms, respect for difference, and respect for the environment.
The role of the state in education must therefore be limited. The Named Person ruling in Scotland is significant here, because it established that under Article 8 of the Convention, the state can only proportionately intervene when necessary – Article 3 says this is permitted in order to protect a child from inhuman or degrading treatment. Articles 27(3) and 18(2) UNCRC make it clear that the duty of the state is to support parents as they carry out their responsibilities, allowing for intervention (Article 19(1)) in the case of abuse or neglect. Indeed, the Supreme Court stated that “The promotion of the wellbeing of children and young people is not … one of the aims listed in article 8(2) of the ECHR”. The state cannot interfere arbitrarily or attempt to oversee the wellbeing of all children.
What can I do?
Use these arguments when you meet with unwarranted interference from the authorities. It is the duty of the state to support you, and particularly so if you are home educating because of deficiencies in its provision. In order to discharge its responsibility to provide support, the state must first correct the deficiencies that are forcing so many parents to home educate, before attempting to intervene on the pretext of the suitability of your provision.