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Guidelines that protect both the children and the parents

The rather hysterical reaction by home educators to our response to the Scottish Executive's draft guidelines reflects more their own lack of security than either the guidelines or what we said.

The guidelines recognise that parents can wish to educate their children at home for a number of reasons, including a dislike of the system. We support this. They also say that home educators must give their children a broad experience, ensure that they are not socially isolated and agree to regular reviews of the home education. I cannot imagine any serious home educator would have any problem with those requirements.

The point of major contention seems to be the new proposal that local authorities check a variety of records to ensure that no child disappears or falls through this whole review process. Local and national authorities would be severely criticised if a child were unknown to them because the parents claimed to be educating the child at home and then that child suffered abuse.

I am surprised that proper and legitimate home educators are so angry that steps should be taken to prevent "home education" being hijacked by a few individuals who might use it to mask the ill-treatment of children.

Moreover, I feel it is defamatory to accuse me (as an individual) of "criticising the Scottish Executive for trying to protect little children from child beaters". I have not, nor would I ever, do any such thing.

The truth, rather than emotive hype, is that the Scottish Parent Teacher Council survey of parents on the Executive's proposal to make it illegal for them to smack their children found that the majority of parents opposed such a law, which would criminalise those who did smack their children.

"Smacking" and "beating" are quite different and there has never been any doubt that child beating is always unacceptable. Moreover, recent sheriff judgments have made it clear that the law already offers children good protection against excessive physical punishment.

Judith Gillespie Development Manager Scottish Parent Teacher Council Shandwick Place, Edinburgh

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