Parents' right to know;Letter

11th June 1999 at 01:00
I WRITE with reference to the negative reaction by Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, to the Scottish Consumer Council's recent report, Independent Education Advice Provision for Parents in Scotland (TESS, May 21).

Like the SPTC, Schoolhouse Home Education Association was one of the national organisations represented on the advisory group for this project and we strongly endorse the SCC's call for independent advice services for parents (and indeed young people themselves).

Mrs Gillespie's remarks that parents will "find sources of advice if they are that desperate" smack of extreme complacency and it is unwise to assume that "problems have to be resolved at school and local authority level" when there is evidence that more and more parents are turning to lawyers in an attempt to resolve difficulties.

By way of illustration, this organisation offers information and support to families throughout Scotland who educate their children outwith school. As everyone should be aware by now, home education, like sending children to school, is a legitimate choice which requires neither explanation nor justification.

However, parents are rarely told the option exists or are given misleading information by schools and local authorities whose officers may have scant knowledge or understanding of home education and whose experience is limited to the schooling system in which they have a vested interest.

As an independent voluntary organisation, Schoolhouse is recording a record number of enquiries from parents who have been driven to home education as a direct result of unresolved school-related problems, and sadly, many are already heading down the children's hearing-sheriff court route before they discover that they are legally entitled to educate them at home - by which time many of them could indeed be said to be "desperate".

The interests of schools, teachers and local authorities are already well served in Scotland by a plethora of organisations, but it should not be forgotten that parents have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring their children are properly educated and it is vital that all parents (not just the confident, able, articulate and advantaged ones who share the school local authority agenda) have access to truly independent educational advice in order to make informed choices.

The SCC should be applauded for bringing this issue to the fore.

Alison Preuss Secretary Schoolhouse Home Education Association Perth Road, Dundee

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