Parents in the UK who are homeschooling their children could be under review soon. UK education secretary Nicky Morgan has ordered her ministry to take action due to growing fears of children being subject to radicalization at homes and unregistered schools across the country.
As the Daily Mail reports, homeschooling parents are not obliged by law to report their homeschooling status, making it impossible for the government to estimate the number of students at risk of radicalization. It is estimated that 20,000 to 50,000 children may be prone or subject to radicalization in the country.
“[W]e need to know where the children are and to be certain that they are safe. For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling their child’s mind with poison. We just don’t know. We don’t have reliable figures,” a government source said according to The Independent.
The education secretary pledged to put into effect severe measures over unregistered schools and weekend madrassas that could potentially serve as hubs to nurture Islamist beliefs.
Homeschooling parents are not obliged to report that they are homeschooling their children. Only in cases when they receive a school place offer do they need to notify the school administration that they will opt for homeschooling instead.
The order by Morgan comes after serious concerns that many parents claim to homeschool their children when in reality they have them attend unofficial or unregistered schools. Ofsted’s chief characterized the phenomenon a “serious and growing threat.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said according to The Telegraph:
“We are determined to tackle radicalization wherever it occurs. We have provided Ofsted with extra inspectors to eradicate extremism in education.”
He added that the two organizations will collaborate so as to ensure homeschooling is not used in extremists’ agenda while making sure every parent’s right to homeschool their children is left intact.
According to Ofsted, last November three unregistered schools in Birmingham were closed down because the curriculum promoted anti-semitic, sexist, and homophobic beliefs, the Guardian says.
Morgan’s pledge to crack down on child radicalization echoes Sir Michael Wilshaw’s earlier concerns that children attending unregistered schools could be at risk.
Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell shared Morgan’s assertion that the radicalization of children has to stop. She said that the inability to overcome the use of radical instructional material at home is an unacceptable failure:
“It is vital that action is taken to ensure that all children, whether in school or taught at home, are given the knowledge and skills to succeed, not taught a narrow curriculum of hate and bigotry,” Powell said according to The Daily Mail.
She added that ‘robust local oversight’ is essential to ensure children are not exposed to radicalized views. Education Select Committee chair Neil Carmichael supported the idea of protecting children’s right to be educated at home. He commented in October 2015 that it’s a scandal to force parents to register their homeschooling status with their local councils.
Conservative MP Graham Stuart strongly opposed the idea of a homeschooling register, The Independent reports. He said:
“The legal duty to educate a child rests with the parents, not the state. That is a long-standing settlement in this country.”