Sunday, 20 May 2012

Parental 'rights'

Does anybody else ever feel like hunting down certain home educators and beating them round the head with a rolled up copy of the Guardian, until they stop talking like idiots? No? maybe it’s just me. Once again, I have encountered somebody who suggests that there are such things as ‘parents’ rights’. Needless to say, a very important ‘right’ is the ‘right to home educate’. Let me try one last despairing time to make this clear; children have rights and the adults around them, including their parents, have duties. These are two completely different things.

To see the absurdity of the notion of a ‘right to home educate’, let us look at some of the  rights which children enjoy. Among these are the right to be sheltered and fed, the right to an education, the right to protection from abuse and exploitation, as well as a number of others. Parents have a duty to ensure that these rights of their children are observed. Education and protection from abuse are precisely the same sort of rights, but some parents get muddled up and start thinking that education is some sort of right of theirs; this is why you will sometimes hear foolish and misguided people talking about their ’right to home educate’ their child. This is dangerous nonsense and to see why, it is only necessary to think what we would say if a parent began appropriating some other of the children’s rights and claiming that they were actually parental rights. How would this work?

Well, children in this country have a right not to be sexually abused or trafficked. Suppose I decide that this is in fact my right. I might say, ’As Mary’s father, I have a right to decide whether she is sexually abused or trafficked.’ This sounds wrong, because of course this is not a parental right, but a duty. In the same way, I could not claim that I had a right to decide whether my child had access to food or not. She has a right to be fed and I have a duty to see that she receives food. Claims such as, 'I have a right to home educate my child', are wrong for precisely the same reason. The parent has a duty to ensure that the child recieves an education; this is very different from having a right.  

As soon as parents start talking about ’rights’ over their children, they fall into error. We have no rights at all; just duties. Our children have a right to an education and parents have a duty to see that they get it. We can fulfil this duty in a number of different ways and as long as we see it in that light, as a duty and not a right, we will not go far wrong. Any talk of parental rights, whether about education, food, sex or anything else, is abhorrent and shows a horrible misunderstanding of both the legal and ethical situation.


  1. A number of years ago our home ed group had the opportunity for children to be involved in learning about their rights. Home educated kids were invited to participate in some very interesting activities and projects with Save The Children. At the time the Fortune Wood family attended our local meetings, as I recall their mistrust and paranoia of anything organised by our council and library service prevented other families from taking advantage of what was on offer.
    Of course, at that time the F-Ws were in full TCS promotion mode and they were rather dismissive of anything outside of TCS and any other crank group they were involved with.

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  3. I am pretty sure that we have seen a post by you on this matter before, and I don't think your point was grasped any better that time either.
    I think the main issue comes with understanding meaning of the words 'right' and 'duty' which has been used pretty interchangeably for a while now. I think whilst you are technically right, others who claim to have 'rights' are right in that the words, for them at least, mean the same thing.

  4. Home education is listed as an option on the government's web page entitled, 'Parental rights in education'.

    According to The Human Rights Act, "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."

    Section 7 of the Education Act gives us the duty to provide our children with a suitable education, but gives us the right to choose to do that, "either by regular attendance at school or otherwise". The Education Act specifically mentions parental rights 11 times.

    Sure, there must be checks and balances to ensure that parents' do not get their rights at the expense of their children's, but to claim that parent's have no rights is just incorrect.

  5. Thank you Jane, this sounds much more in keeping with what I thought was the case.

  6. 'Section 7 of the Education Act gives us the duty to provide our children with a suitable education, but gives us the right to choose to do that, "either by regular attendance at school or otherwise".'

    It does not; it gives parents a choice in how they discharge a duty. Discharging a duty is a very different thing from exercising a right.

    'According to The Human Rights Act, "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."'

    Do not under any circumstances rely upon this to confer a right to home educate. This has been tried in Germany, which has much the same law with similar wording. Appeals to the European Court have held that home education is not covered by this.

  7. How is a 'choice' different from a 'right' in this context? Both mean that it's up to the parent. Monk describes it as follows:

    "Strictly speaking the provision in the first place imposes an absolute duty on parents to provide suitable education for their child and then provides them with a right to choose how to comply with this duty."

    During the only court case revolving around the right to HE in the UK (the West Ridings case), the judge states:

    "to wholly deprive the parent of the right to give efficient elementary instruction to his own child . . . and I think it would require clearer language than the section contains to deprive him of that right’"

    So HE as the right of a parent received judicial support in 1910.

    With regards to the Human Rights Act, if you mean the Leuffen case, it was decided that her claim was inadmissible by the Commission because the German courts had proved that the mother was unable to educate her child. For various reasons covered by Monk (which I believe you've read), the Commission's suggestion that a state can impose schooling is problematic and may not be upheld if other cases were brought.

    I do agree that it's entirely possible that the Government could decide to remove our right to HE and agree the Human Rights Act may or may not help us if that happened. But at the moment we do have that right, so it seems a good idea to ensure we retain that right by ensuring that even those who currently don't take advantage of that right are aware of it and value the right as a safety net in case they ever need to take advantage of it themselves.

  8. it is my right to home educate and No one is going to be allowed to interfere with this right any one who attemps to is my enemy and i will defend my right to home educate with force if i have to!
    you wanna try and stop me Webb?

    1. People like yourself do nothing but give home educators a bad name.

  9. giving home education a good name is not of any of my concern who cares what the council or Webb think
    it is our right to home educate and nothing will be allowed to get in the way of this!