France home-school ban: conditions may be relaxed

It was announced in October as part of measures aimed to curb terrorism, but has faced push back from concerned parents and associations

9 December 2020
By Jane Hanks

The homeschooling ban that is due to be introduced from September 2021 could be less strict than first anticipated, with parents required to get authorisation if they wish to take their children out of school. 

Prime Minister Jean Castex said yesterday (December 8) in an interview with newspaper Le Monde that some children who are educated at home are taught in a way that goes against the values of the Republic, but that “we must not make a mistake in targeting the wrong people.” 

He said homeschooling would be allowed but only with authorisation from the local Education Authority for a limited number of reasons including disability, state of health, intensive sport or artistic training, living too far away from a school and a more general reason which would allow parents to put forward their own reasons and project for home education.

This follows reports in the national press that after reviewing the measure, the highest court in the land, the Conseil d’Etat, has warned that banning homeschooling would be unconstitutional. 

This is because the Jules Ferry law of 1882 says it is instruction and not schooling which is obligatory in France, and there is nothing to prove that parents’ motives for home education are to contest the values of the Republic.

Claudia Renau, a member of association Les Enfants d’Abord, has home schooled all three of her children, now aged 15, 18 and 21. She said all the associations concerned met yesterday and they are unanimously opposed to the ban, in whatever form.

“The need for an authorisation takes away our basic freedom to choose whether to educate our children at home or at school. 

“Many of us, me included, choose from the outset to homeschool, so our children never set foot in a classroom. If we have to ask for authorisation they would have to go to school until we received permission. 

“There are often other children who are in school, but have a difficult period and it helps them to have a temporary period at home. What will they do while they wait for permission, which could take a long time?”

The measure is due to be discussed today by the Council of Ministers who meet every Wednesday to look at new laws. 

It is one of the clauses in the highly controversial law on separatism which aims to fight terrorism.

In a speech in October, President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to ban all homeschooling, unless there was a medical reason, because he said Education Authority inspectors discover children who are ‘outside the system’ and every week préfets close illegal schools, which he said were administered by religious extremists. 

There was an immediate reaction from parents who home school, arguing there is no proof terrorists are educated at home, and the ban takes away an essential freedom to choose where to educate children. 

Two readers told The Connexion the ban means they and their families will have to move back to the UK as normal schooling is not appropriate for their children as they have learning difficulties.

Currently, education is obligatory for all children, but not attendance at a school. Parents have to declare they are home schooling, and are visited regularly by school inspectors to ensure the children are being educated to the same level as their peers. Today some 50,000 children are homeschooled in France.

Read more:

France’s home-schooling ban will force us to move back to UK

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