Petition claims ‘harassment’ of home educators

Government’s safeguarding policy making families who home-educate feel ‘under threat’

Emma Seith

Petition claims ‘harassment’ of home educators

Fears that the Scottish government’s controversial approach to safeguarding children is being used as an excuse by professionals for “arbitrary interference” in the lives of families who home educate their children will be considered in the Scottish Parliament’s tomorrow.

The “appalling attitude” of professionals towards home educators is described in a series of case studies submitted alongside a petition – due to be considered by the Education and Skills Committee tomorrow – which is calling for the Scottish government to initiate an independent inquiry into “the gathering and sharing of citizens’ personal information” under Getting It Right For Every Child (Girfec). 

Typically the controversial part of Girfec has been the Named Person policy which aims to appoint a professional named person – often a teacher – to ensure the wellbeing of every child.

However, even with Named Person having been put on hold, the petitioners claim Girfec has led to parents and their children experiencing “distress, fear, humiliation and harm as a direct result of data misuse by service providers”.

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They talk about families disengaging, as a result, “from conventional services” and say there is now “such a lack of trust in health visitors...that many parents, especially those whose children have [additional support needs], are fearful of accessing support from public and third-sector services”.

Parents in the case studies talk about being told by professionals that it is “illegal” to home educate their children. Others that home-school say they feel they have been subjected to “a campaign of harassment”.

One parent said: “Although my daughter has now been home educated for three years, we still feel under constant threat due to the appalling attitude of professionals towards home educators, in particular to families whose children have additional needs that schools cannot begin to meet.”

Another commented: “Girfec policy has spiralled out of control and is continuing to cause incalculable damage to our family and others.”

An investigation by Tes Scotland last year revealed that the number of pupils being home-educated in Scotland has risen by over 50 per cent in five years.

Alison Preuss – founder of Scottish Home Education Forum and one of the petitioners – said the rise was largely being driven by schools' inability to properly support children with additional needs.

The other petitioner is Lesley Scott, Scottish officer for the Tymes Trust, a charity providing support services for families with children suffering from ME.

However, it is unlikely the petition will receive “substantive consideration” until the government guidance requested by the education committee is produced.

The government brought forward its Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill last year but it hit a stumbling block – the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee refused in December to produce a report on it until the government provided a draft code of practice. 

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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