Provision not protection

8th August 2003 at 01:00
With reference to your article "Home free for lobbyists" (July 18), the muddling of home education with child protection is rapidly becoming an unacceptable error, not just with the home education community but with those professionals and members of the public who have taken the time to look at the issues properly.

The primary purpose of the statutory guidance on home education is to assist local authorities to interpret the existing statute which applies to home education (which has equal status in the law with school education).

The statute is about making education provision which is suitable to the child and not about child protection. The statutory guidance has no power to, nor is it its purpose to, invent new law ( about child protection).

The Scottish Executive officials who have conducted the recent consultation leading to this revised draft guidance have understood this well and contrary to "bowing to pressure" from anyone they have taken account of the responses from all sides and most importantly have applied legal rigour which was notably lacking in the first rejected draft. No concessions have been made. No U-turns have been effected. Rather, effective consultation in its intended form has taken place. Welcome progress indeed.

Child protection on the other hand is the concern of everyone. Law and conventions relating to child protection are of course applicable to all children and are under constant review. Everyone, professional or not, already has a duty (moral, ethical or statutory) to act if there is a serious concern that a child may be being abused or at real risk of it.

The key point that needs to be understood by all now is that the lawful choice of home education provision is not a grounds for such concern and it would be legally wrong for guidance to imply that it was.

Ann Samuel Till Draft Guidance Response Team Education Otherwise Bellevue Road, Edinburgh

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