Christian Family Threatened by UK Homeschool Bill

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Christian couple Randall and Mary Hardy have successfully home-schooled three of their six children and are currently teaching their youngest son, Daniel from their home in Market Drayton, England.

The parents say their family has benefited from home schooling, not just academically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Yet, a bill currently before Parliament threatens the Hardy's right to homeschool their children.

"We've had six children. The oldest three went to a Christian school. The youngest three we've home educated. But we've got six grandchildren. Three of them have been home educated," said Randall Hardy.

The Children's, Schools and Families bill proposed in Parliament says home-schooling parents should be forced to apply annually for registration and mandates criminal background checks for parents who wish to homeschool.

It would also give local governments the authority to monitor home-schooled children to check if they are safe and well. But Randall Hardy is outraged at the intrusion the legislation would cause.

"What they have produced is about monitoring and issuing us a license as if they have the right to say who is or isn't a fit or proper person to bring up children," he said.

A government spokesperson was unavailable to comment, but in a statement parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools Diana Johnson said the group knows "there are a small number of cases where local authorities have concerns for the safety of home educated children."

"The Government has a responsibility to make sure that the safety and rights of vulnerable children are protected," she continued. "Which is why we are looking at how we can put in place better checks and balances so we can be confident every child is safe and learning."

Mary Hardy says she can't understand why the government is so suspicious of home-schoolers.

"It makes me feel upset that they don't take us at face value. They don't take us as genuine people," she said. "I can't see why anyone would homeschool if they weren't genuine and didn't have a real concern for their children."

Ann Newstead from the national home schooling organization Education Otherwise says such drastic action is unwarranted.

"I think the proposals are concerning not just for what they do say, but for where they could lead," she explained. "It would be possible for local governments to refuse the right to teach your child at home."

Newstead raised the case of a home schooling family in Sweden that has found themselves in the unimaginable position of permanently losing custody of their only child, simply because they homeschool. She is concerned the legislation could lead Britian down a similar path.

"When we hear of extreme cases such as the one in Sweden where the family lost their child, it is a concern to look at these proposed changes and wonder if that could be a natural progression for these sorts of proposals," Newstead said.

For families like the Hardys, such concerns strike too close to home.

Many other families like the Hardys are keen to safeguard their ability to homeschool their children and are determined to see the government legislation won't restrict those rights.

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Peter Wooding

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