Written evidence submitted by Rev. Christopher Campbell Murphy


Since it is primarily the responsibility of parents, and not the state, to educate children, parents ought to have the widest possible range of options when choosing the most appropriate way to educate their children. Parents may choose to educate their children at a state school, or an independent school, or at home. That this is their right is enshrined in the UN declaration of human rights, article 26(3). When a state provides a form of education through state funded schools, this is a service that parents can choose to take advantage of if it suits them and the needs of their family. The tacit assumption behind this proposal is that it is the state’s duty to provide education rather than the duty of parents. This false understanding of the role of the state leads the state to think it has the right to scrutinise parents, when in actual fact, it ought to be the other way around.


The role of the state is to help parents provide their children with an appropriate education not to remove this responsibility from parents. The danger of the state replacing parents with respect to education is that the state cannot know what is best for every child, it is too large to be responsive to particular needs, and too bureaucratic to be able to care sufficiently for each individual child. While this proposal may seek to provide better educational standards for more children the consequence is likely to be the opposite.


It must be axiomatic that any parent would understand the needs of their own child better than the state. This is not to say that any given parent has all the training in teaching that is required to educate a child, but that parents, almost by definition, are able to judge the educational needs of their own child better than the state. Parents, therefore should be free to choose from a menu of educational options, rather than be constrained by the rather arbitrary and blunt instrument of a one-size fits all educational policy. Why should parents who home educate their children have to jump through these hoops? And who says they are the right hoops? Does the state really have the arrogance to claim it knows what is best for every individual child, when it is impossible for the state to know them all? This proposal may appear to have the best interests of children at heart but in actual fact it represents the state limiting the freedoms of its citizens, rather than creating opportunities for its citizens to enjoy maximal freedom and to flourish.


We have seen over the past few months the overreach of the state into personal lives, this may seem innocuous enough but some of the problems of this overreach have become clear. It is already the case that the majority of parents choose to educate their children through the state system. That system ceased to operate for much of 2020, as the country coped with the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the issues was the teachers’ unions brought state education to a stand still and refused to educate the children under their care. Children who were educated independently or at home continued to receive an education, while those in the care of the state did not.


This proposal seeks to extend the arm of the state. An arm which, if it is to be judged by its ability to educate children over the course of 2020, has fallen far short of the trust the general public has placed in it. It seems ironic that the state wants to increase its power to police home education at a time when it is far from clear that the state is qualified to perform such a function. Over the course of 2020 the state has failed to educate, anywhere near adequately, the children entrusted to it and now it wants to bring into the orbit of its incompetence those who are educated at home. It seems that far from children needing to be protected from their parents by the state, children need protecting from the state by their parents.


I have a one-year old son, and another baby on the way. The way the government has handled educational policy over the past twelve months has given me serious pause for thought. I now, no longer trust that the state has the competence to educate my child(ren), and I am convinced my wife and I could do a better job. I am not saying I would definitely home school my children but it seems like an increasingly appealing option.


Given the very real problems in education right now, I think the government can ill afford to use its limited resources on policing a group of children, who are probably far safer beyond its reach. In any case local authorities already have all the powers they need to intervene, where they believe children are at risk or not receiving an adequate education. Perhaps the government should turn its attention to the reinstitution of annual examinations and ensuring that if another pandemic affects this country that state education will not be brought to a stand still by militant unions.

October 2020