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Home free for lobbyists

TALK about listening government - this week's revised guidance on home education shows a remarkable U-turn by the Scottish Executive (page 3).

After heavy pressure from the parent lobby, major parts of the original proposals have been excised.

Consent to withdraw your child from the education system becomes little more than a formality. Parents whose children already attend school are requested to notify the education authority of their intentions as early as possible, but parents whose children do not yet attend school are not even required to register them.

Suggestions for the type of education parents should provide have virtually disappeared. Gone is any hint of prescriptiveness as to what a broad and balanced education might provide. In its place are suggestions of what an efficient and suitable education might entail: presence of a philosophy or ethos; opportunities for children to be stimulated by their learning experiences; and involvement in a broad spectrum of activities.

This is a liberal document indeed, and will go down well with the home-educating lobby, who resented the powers of monitoring given to the education authority in the earlier document. And that's fine for the majority of parents, who are responsible and capable of meeting their child's needs . . . but that's not all parents.

Where's the protection for the child? What happens to the youngster who has never attended pre-five education, or who has just moved into the area? Only last year in inverness a five-year-old girl disappeared and was found murdered after her mother told the school she had moved to England.

No one would wish to restrict parental rights, but at the very least all children taught at home should be registered with the education authority.

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