Parents who educate their children at home have vowed to fight President Macron's plan to ban home-schooling from September 2021 unless they have a medical reason.
In a speech on anti-separatism, Mr Macron said that Education Authority inspectors regularly discover children who are 'outside the system' and every week prefects close illegal schools, which he said were administered by religious extremists.
“Confronted by these abuses which exclude thousands of children from education and citizenship, access to culture, our history, our values, the experience of otherness which is the heart of the Republican school, I have taken a decision: from September 2021, instruction at school will be made obligatory for everyone from age three years. Instruction at home will be strictly limited to health reasons,” he said.
Currently, education is obligatory for all children, but not attendance at a school.
The Ministry of Education website currently says families have a choice – either to send their children to a private or public educational establishment or be responsible for the education of their children. Today, some 50,000 children in France are home schooled.
Gwenaëlle Spenlé, a member of association Les Enfants d’Abord, has home-schooled all five of her children who are now aged 13 – 23. Two are still at home, and one has elected to go to Lycée next year, while the other wants to stay at home. She said it is up to her children to decide how they want to be educated: “When I first heard the news that our right to home-school was to end I thought it was a joke.
"It is incomprehensible, inadmissible and takes away an essential freedom of people in this country.”
She said the argument that children are more likely to be radicalised at home is false: “We are controlled by the education authorities every year and surely inspectors would be able to pick up any indoctrination straight away.
"There is no proof terrorists were educated at home, it is more likely they went to school. Our families defend the Republican values of democracy, and encourage open-mindedness.”
She said home-schooling is often misunderstood: “I think there are two main reasons why parents do not send their children to school.
"One is a philosophical choice for an alternative type of education where children learn at their own rhythm and gain in independence of thought, and the second is when a child has tried school and been miserable because they have found they just do not fit in.
"This could be for a year, or more long term. Since this announcement several parents have got in touch with me saying their child suffered so much at school, they just don’t know how they can send them back next year.”
The number of home-schooled children is rising: “We only make up 0.4% of school-age children, but more are making this choice. A few years ago there were around 30,000. The reasons are that school is now obligatory from three, that people are scared of the virus and that with the internet there are more resources and it is easier for home-schooling families and children to be in touch with each other.”
Mrs Spenlé said the association is discussing how to fight the announcement and urged anyone who considers the ban excessive to contact their MP or Senate representative before the announcement becomes law.