The Scottish Home Education Forum was first established as an online peer support network in 1999 in recognition of the fact that Scots education legislation differs from the law that applies in the other constituent nations of the UK. In recent years it has expanded its scope to provide advocacy, training and consultancy services, as well as conducting research on issues that affect the elective home educating community. The Forum is co-ordinated by its original co-founder Alison Preuss, who home educated her own three children, and is managed by a steering group of experienced volunteers. Although our focus is firmly on Scotland, we still retain strong links with home education networks across the UK and internationally.
The Scottish Home Ed Forum (or ‘list’ as it was when we started out) has been in existence as an information resource and peer support network for more than 20 years and it has been quite a journey! Our most recent move has been to a new home, independent of but still connected to our parent website, which has hosted our dedicated online forums and archives since 2009. We may be spreading our wings but we are keeping some of our most treasured assets secure in the family home.
Our archives document our evolution from managing a simple email list for families (mostly on dial-up connections!) to an independent website with a presence on multiple social media channels. They make for fascinating reading and are accessible to members of our private forum. One day we plan to turn them into a book.
We have fought off numerous attempts to curtail the freedom to home educate over the years (not just in Scotland) and have been proactive in supporting children’s rights in education from the outset, including having direct involvement in the setting up of Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) in 2001.
We were also among the first to challenge the Scottish Government on its GIRFEC ‘named person’ scheme, which mandated the collection and sharing of personal data of all children and family members between public and third sector agencies without their consent. We are represented on the NO2NP campaign coalition, which ultimately succeeded in having the offending law struck down by the UK Supreme Court in 2016. For those with time and stamina, more information is available on our GIRFEC Files timelines and this public forum thread.
It may surprise some to learn that, as a home education group, we are actively trying to ban home schooling! We respectfully ask our members not to use the term ‘home schooling’ in our groups – or be offended if other members post reminders not to – unless discussing it in the context of American (or other non-UK) home education.
Research we have undertaken in recent years has led us to taking this position because the use of the term ‘home schooling’ (which has no basis in education legislation in the UK) effectively undermines elective home education (which appears in government guidance). This has allowed a culture of ignorance and prejudice to become entrenched across public services (aided and abetted by the media), and fostered an erroneous assumption that schooling is superior when ‘education by other means’, including home education, has equal legal status and validity. Our 2020 Home Truths report, based on detailed research, explains why this creates problems for home educating families, especially those who opt for autonomous learning and reject a school-at-home approach. Although the term ‘unschooling’ has gained popular traction here, it has no legal definition and is more correctly known as ‘autonomous education’ in the UK.
Similarly, the term ‘deregistration’ does not apply to the formal process of withdrawing a child from the school roll in Scotland as we have no equivalent pupil registration regulations to those in place in other parts of the UK. By extension, there is no ‘registration’, and applying for/reserving a school place does not mean parents have to take up the offer. They can simply decline the place and not show up on the first day. The legal responsibility to educate children in the compulsory years lies with parents, and those who send their children to school are making a choice (although they may not realise it!) to delegate that duty.
It is also a carefully concealed fact that a child does not attain compulsory education age in Scotland until the August following his/her fifth birthday. Those who claim otherwise should be invited to cite the applicable legislation in writing and/or directed to our explanation of the law. The same advice applies to other frequently-made false claims about ‘compulsory’ health visitors, nursery education, home visits, ‘registering’ with the council, following the CfE, providing examples of ‘work’, allowing access to children to compel their views, and other unreasonable demands.
Always remember that no one (with parental rights) requires permission to home educate per se. The only consent required is for the withdrawal of a child of compulsory education age from a council school in Scotland, which s/he has attended on one occasion or more. Even then, several exceptions apply, which are mostly outlined in statutory guidance.
Home education is becoming the learning journey of choice for many more families, as well as a significant number whose children’s needs have not been met by schools. Free resources are now available from myriad sources, and countless activities and events are organised by local groups on a regular and ad hoc basis, giving lie to the common school-at-home portrayal of children following a restrictive conventional curriculum at the kitchen table.
We are welcoming new members daily and work in partnership with the national membership charity Home Education Scotland to ensure families are well informed and supported, whether they opt for home education from the outset or later make the transition to a different way of life and learning.
For more enlightenment on the wonderful world of home education, browse our FAQs here.