Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bilingual family suffers under government persecution

At the beginning of April I posted about how the education authorities in Nord-Rhine Westphalia had, without warning, taken extreme measures against 3 homeschooling families in the town of Lüdenscheid. One of these families is the Skeet family, whose children are talented musicians. They are also bilingual, as their father, Jonathan Skeet, is British. (As an aside, I know from experience that going into the German school system would probably not have done their bilingualism any good and they would probably have had to sit through basic English lessons.)

For four years now, the German/English Skeet children have been educating themselves at home, with the help of their parents, and in cooperation with three other families in the neighbourhood. In their native England, at least 160 000 children of school age are learning in this way, with the respect and support of local education authorities, local schools and the general public. It is known as "Home-Education", and in all European countries (except Germany and Bulgaria) and worldwide it is permitted, for all families wishing to exercise this right, within the laws concerning compulsory education.

Now, however, for two of the five children, their high intelligence, musicality and bilingualism has become a problem for them – in Germany compulsory education means compulsory school attendance, and the headmistress of the local school has been placed under pressure by the local school authorities to impose 6000€ fines (about 4000 pounds or 7500 US dollars) on the parents. The children, who are being successfully home-educated, are both at least one academic year in advance of their age, and have been nominated for participation in a major youth music contest, are not even known by the headmistress – she has never set eyes on them, or seen them at her school. The parents have never been invited for a conversation.

In many similar cases, the authorities start the punitive process with relatively modest fines. Not so with the Skeets - whose applications for an exception to be made in their case have all been rejected - who are being treated like criminals. The otherwise respected members of the community, with a relatively modest income, have suffered the freezing of their bank account and the confiscation of their family car. The eldest daughter was traumatised by the appearance of the court-bailiffs in their flat. The father (Care-assistant in home for the elderly) had to walk home after work on Monday. It was impossible to gain access to the account, get money to go shopping, (Not possible without the car anyway!) or make any provision
involving money at all.

Once again, German bureaucracy has left a lasting, painful and traumatic impression on a large and otherwise happy family.

Jonathan and Natascha Skeet

Am Williglo 14
58509 Lüdenscheid


Where you can send protest emails or letters:
The education Ministry's adress (address to Frau Sommer, the education minister):

Email :

Ministerium für Schule und Weiterbildung des Landes NRW
Frau Ministerin Sommer Völklinger Str. 49
40221 Düsseldorf (The School Headmistress)

Education authority of the Märkisch District (who put the pressure on the Headmistress to take action)

Email :

Letters :
Schulrätin Frau Bunselmeier-Lohr
Heedfelder Str. 45
58509 Lüdenscheid

Regional Newspapers:
Lüdenscheider Nachrichten (very fair and positive) Email:

Westfälische Rundschau (ok) Email: oder

Here again is Jan Edel's webpage which details the whole situation. The families involved are personal friends of Jan.

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