Homeschooling Restricted in Austria

Country: Austria

Date of incident: June 19, 2012

Several English – speaking Christian families who home educate their children in Austria have come under pressure by the Austrian school authorities for educating their children in English. They have been fined and threatened with the children being taken away – even though there are schools in Austria which teach exclusively in English.

The homeschooling families living in Austria for work reasons are from England, Scotland, Slovakia, and the U.S.A. They are Roman and Greek Catholic. All the children are enrolled in a distance learning home school academy in the U.S.A. (the Mother of Divine Grace School) and the parents have presented to the authorities the accreditation of this school and yearly transcripts which demonstrate the educational achievement of the children. Until 2008 the home educated children were tested yearly at the American School in Vienna in English and according to the curriculum we followed at home. Since 2008, the local school authorities have requested to test the children in the local State school according to the curriculum of that school and wholly in German even though there are hundreds of English speaking children in Austria who are permitted by the Ministry of Education to be educated and tested wholly in English at private schools. These tests are impossible for the children to pass since our children are home educated in English and they do not follow the Austria State curriculum. When the children fail the examinations, the school authorities will then refuse permission to school the children at home claiming that the families have failed to properly educate our children. In September 2011, the local authority fined the families for every day their children have been absent from the local school. These fines now run into several thousand Euros. William Newton, from the United Kingdom, a homeschooling father of five, and an assistant professor for theololgy at a theological faculty says: „We are being frustrated in our efforts to be the primary educators of our children by the local and national school authorities in Austria.“ On 8 June 2012 the families met with the local school inspector from Scheibbs. William Newton: „There was no movement on the part of the authorities at all and what appeared to us as a hardening of their position. He told us that if our children are not in school this September (2012) then the likelihood is that the social services will be alterted to our situtation. This appears to us to be a method they are prepared to use to pressure us into sending the children to the local school. The ultimate threat, of course, is that the children shall be taken from us because we are 'mistreating' them by not sending them to the local school.“ Source: Homeschooling families known to Observatory.