Home schooling is not a valid option to release the state from its human rights obligations.

When secular parents complain about discrimination in National schools they are sometimes met with the response that they can home school their children.

The European Court has stated that this is not a valid option as few parents have the resources to home school their children. Many secular parents do not have the resources to home school their children and have no choice where they send their children to school. They are coerced by force of choice to send their children to in the main Catholic schools.

This really is a key issue as the Irish state have always used this excuse to deny secular parents their human rights. They make the argument that secular parents could home school their children, or go to another school if they found that Catholic education was against their conscience and preference.

Please don’t try and tell us that Catholic education is inclusive of secularists. It is bad enough to have to listen to people claiming that Catholic education is inclusive when the openly discriminate against minorities. How do they get away with calling themselves inclusive and claiming segregating children in the education system is promoting pluralism?

The European Court has also stated that the state cannot be released from its positive obligations to respect. There is a positive obligation on the state to respect the secular viewpoint as it is regarded as a philosophical conviction under Article II of Protocol 1 (the right to education) and Article 9 (the right to freedom of conscience) of the European Convention.

In the recent case of O’Keeffe v Ireland at the European Court the court stated the following:-

“151. Finally, the Government appeared to suggest that the State was released from its Convention obligations since the applicant chose to go to Dunderrow National School. However, the Court considers that the applicant had no “realistic and acceptable alternative” other than attendance, along with the vast majority of children of primary school-going age, at her local National School (Campbell and Cosans v. the United Kingdom, 25 February 1982, § 8, Series A no. 48). Primary education was obligatory (sections 4 and 17 of the School Attendance Act 1926), few parents had the resources to use the two other schooling options (home schooling or travelling to attend the rare fee-paying primary schools) whereas National Schools were free and the National School network was extensive. There were four National Schools in the applicant’s parish and no information was submitted as to the distance to the nearest fee-paying school. In any event, the State cannot be released from its positive obligation to protect simply because a child selects one of the State-approved education options, whether a National School, a fee-paying school or, indeed, home schooling (Costello-Roberts, cited above, § 27).”

Home schooling is out as an excuse and so is the claim that all parents have a choice where they send their children to school. What new excuse will they think up to deny secular parents and their children their human rights?


  1. Avatar
    William White February 20, 2014

    It is time for those who support equal rights and those who believe that their children have a right not to be exposed to religious indoctrination in school to stand up and demand that their children are no longer discriminated against in the classroom/assembly hall. For far too long our schools have been dominated by religious dogma. Parents who are atheist or agnostic have had to accept the school’s majority religious ethos if our children were to recieve a structured education. The time has come to say NO to preaching in our schools. If you are athiest/agnostic/secularist and your child is being exposed to religious preaching in school against your wishes, you and your child are being discriminated against and you have a right/responsibility to tell the school it is not acceptable and must stop.

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    martin curran March 11, 2014

    It would be interesting to have a firm definition of “home schooling”, does it specifically refer to schooling in the home? Or does it also include schooling as given by a parent or guardian from the same home?

    If the later example were accepted as part of the definition could it possibly be used to argue against some schools insistance that those opting out of religious instruction be supervised by a parent due to staffing constraints.

    As a member of a household where both parents work outside of the home, parental supervision during religious instruction would not be a viable option…

    • Avatar
      Jane Donnelly March 11, 2014


      I’m afraid home schooling has always been defined as a parent teaching a child at home. As far as we are aware most schools do not insist that a child be removed from the school if they opt out of religious instruction. They are permitted to sit in the class where religous instruction takes place.


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