Parents who teach their children at home 'made to feel like criminals'

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The Independent Online

Families who educate their children at home are being "made to feel like criminals" by Government truancy patrols, which intimidate and harass them, two leading home education groups have claimed.

Families who educate their children at home are being "made to feel like criminals" by Government truancy patrols, which intimidate and harass them, two leading home education groups have claimed.

Some parents are now afraid to leave home with their children during school hours for fear of aggressive questioning from the police and truancy officers about why the child is not in school.

The Home Education Advisory Service and Education Otherwise, which support home educators, met officials at the Department for Education and Skills last week to demand that truancy patrols stick to the rules after being inundated by complaints from furious families.

Families can carry cards to show that they are home educators, but even parents carrying a card have been challenged. Some officers demanded families' names and addresses although they have no right to do so, and reporting them to the local education authority even though this is not required.

Up to 170,000 children are educated at home, which has increased by 20,000 in the past two years. Parents have to inform their education authority that they intend to teach their children at home. But if a child has never attended school, parents are under no obligation to tell the council. Brenda Holliday, of the Home Education Advisory Service, said: "Many truancy patrols are ignoring guidance."

Veronica Smith and her son, Martin, nine, were stopped by a truancy patrol last year. The family were pressured to give their name and address and were reported to their education authority. There was no requirement for them to be registered as home educators as Martin has never attended school.

Mrs Smith, 47, showed them an official card, but the officer continued to question them aggressively. Her husband, Bernard, 53, said officials were "abusing their authority and making up their own rules". He said: "They are ... saying that it is against the law to refuse to comply. That is a bare- faced lie. I know of some home educators who are too frightened now to leave their homes during school hours. That is outrageous."

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