Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith has published a ‘Home Education in Scotland’ member’s bill aiming to make it easier for parents to home educate their children amidst an ongoing row over the draft home education guidance from the Scottish Executive that shadow education minister Michael Russell has slammed as ‘draconian and Stalinist’ and families have vowed to fight.
Scottish Executive plans calling on local authorities to find every child who is educated at home and monitor their progress have been greeted with alarm.
It is thought that about 5,000 children are taught at home but are not registered with their local council.
The proposal has come under fire from parents who believe ministers are interfering in their right to choose to teach their children themselves.
It’s very much up to parents to decide along with their children, depending on their maturity, what is right for them
Scottish home educators are preparing for a march on the Edinburgh parliament on Thursday in protest at a proposed tightening of the rules by the Scottish Executive.
Home educators have expressed alarm at draft guidance from the Scottish Executive – put on its website on Christmas Eve – which they allege amounts to a “bullies’ charter”.
Campaigner Alison Preuss said there are fears that the measures will be used to force home educated children back into schools.
She said: “It’s very much up to parents to decide along with their children, depending on their maturity, what is right for them.
“I would say that it’s absolutely counter-productive to try and hold children who are not happy in a school environment and force attendance.
“You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”
But Gordon Jeyes, Secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (Ades), said councils have a duty to ensure children are properly educated.
He said: “There is the capacity, particularly in large urban areas, for some children to fall through the net.
“It’s not at all a question of challenging the right of parents to educate at home.
“But it’s just to make sure that’s being done in a way which is being supported and is in a child’s best interests.”
The parents have set up the Freedom in Scottish Education Campaign and have won support from the Scottish National Party.
‘Draconian and Stalinist’
Education spokesman Mike Russell MSP said: “I think people have a right to decide how their children are educated.
“I educate my son in a school and there is no problem with that but some parents want to educate their children at home.
“Providing the safeguards are met, I think that is legitimate, there won’t be a lot of them but I don’t think they deserve to be treated like pariahs.”
Mr Russell described the new Scottish Executive guidelines as “draconian and Stalinist”.
I am determined to ensure that parents are given the ultimate right to choose how their own children are educated
Tory education spokesman. Brian Monteith
Meanwhile, Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith has published a member’s bill aiming to make it easier for parents to educate their children at home.
He said his proposals would allow parents to withdraw their children from school by providing written notification to their local authority.
“I am determined to ensure that parents are given the ultimate right to choose how their own children are educated,” he said.
“If they wish to do so at home, then they should not be denied that choice by dictats handed down by Labour and Lib Dem politicians.”
A Scottish Executive spokesman said the right to educate children at home was recognised but councils must ensure that children are receiving a sound education.
By setting out clear guidelines for parents and local authorities, the spokesman said ministers hope the relationship of councils and parents can be improved.