Parents deceived about home schooling

5th October 2007 at 01:00
Rather than support parents, many local authorities prefer to employ a catalogue of dirty tricks to prevent them from exercising a valid educational choice. While no parent requires permission to home educate per se, consent is required to withdraw a child who is already in a state school, and this legislative anomaly effectively gives councils licence to bully parents.

Too many parents remain unaware of their rights and responsibilities in education, and most councils prefer to keep it that way. When parents discover there is a viable alternative to schooling, usually through independent research, they are, unsurprisingly, angry at having been deceived.

Despite clear guidance, most local authorities remain confused about their role in relation to home education. Their responses to the Government's consultation reveal a widespread oxymoronic belief that home-educated young people are "children missing from education". Many also believe they may demand direct access to children to hear their views on their home education (while ignoring the views of individual schooled children), when it is parents who have this responsibility in law.

Local authorities are clearly failing to grasp, or are in denial about, the most important aspects of the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act, namely the duty of parents to provide compulsory education and the corresponding duty of councils to provide school places for parents who wish to use them.

They further misunderstand the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2000, which does not compromise parental choice, but rather places a legal duty on local authorities to provide school education "directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential".

That last duty might prove pretty tricky for councils, given that they should be meeting the needs of each individual child, so they have probably decided to keep parents in the dark about that too.

Alison Preuss



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