Breaking down the home barriers

17th February 2006 at 00:00
I have every sympathy with the family who wish to home educate and with their treatment at the hands of South Ayrshire Council, mentioned by Mike Russell in his column last week.

But I find Mr Russell's rubbishing of all education authorities over the way they deal with home education inaccurate and unhelpful. It is true that the statutory guidance stops short of giving parents the right to withdraw their children without requiring formal "consent to withdraw", which parents do hope to see changed at some stage.

However, it does contain clear extensive guidance as to how a local authority should conduct any request by parents to withdraw a child to be home educated. In practice, home educators need experience no delay and indeed most do not.

It was recognised when the statutory guidance became final that education authorities would take time to embrace it and adjust their policies and practices to reflect it. Some authorities, being very entrenched in an old-fashioned school ethos and hostile to home education, have found this difficult, which does sometimes lead to unfortunate conflicts for individual families. Other authorities continue to discourage home education, which can be daunting to a family.

However, many authorities have been making a reasonable adjustment with a few even taking up independent training courses which have been on offer.

The process is sometimes frustratingly slow, but it is not helped by blanket attacks. Often authorities have only needed clarification on the statutory guidance, the law and home education in practice to make necessary and helpful shifts in the right direction.

The Scottish Executive said it would review how the guidance was working after two years and so there should be an opportunity for home educators and authorities to take a frank look at the whole picture this year.

In the meantime, local authorities are encouraged to talk with the home educating community and to see home education as one of the options in a changing education world.

Ann Samuel Till

Education Otherwise

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