Home educated candidates need equal access to SQA exams

Home Education Scotland has written to Deputy First Minister and cabinet secretary for Education & Skills, John Swinney MSP, urging him to ensure that any new arrangements for SQA exams due to Covid-19 takes into account the needs of independent home educated candidates, many of whom have additional support needs and/or disabilities. 

The letter has been co-signed by the Scottish Home Education Forum and endorsed by representatives of 15 home education support networks from across Scotland. 

Dear Mr Swinney                                                                                                      

Ref: Call for review of SQA cancelling exams excluding the needs of home educated children and external candidates, including those with additional support needs.

We understand that this is a difficult time in creating guidance and practice during the Covid-19 pandemic and we would like to bring to your attention that there has been a disproportionate effect on the home educating community through cancellation of examinations or qualifications in 2021.  Much conversation has taken place through our various support groups across the country and all are in support of this request for consideration.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that independent candidates, including home educated young people, were not only denied access to the 2020 exams they had been working towards, but were also excluded from the alternative arrangements drawn up by the Scottish Qualifications Authority for their schooled counterparts in the absence of predicted grade assessments by teachers or tutors. Many home educators incurred significant financial losses as well as missing out on qualifications and university places they had worked hard for. In other words, they were effectively ‘cancelled’ along with their exams.

In Ireland, a successful challenge to an unjust exclusion from alternative arrangements for assessment resulted in adjustments being made to address the disadvantage. Sadly, no such adjustments appear to have been contemplated to level the playing field for home educated students in Scotland and other independent candidates in the UK who have been caught in the Covid-19 fall-out.

We are therefore contacting you to request that you instruct the SQA to engage directly with the stakeholder signatories below and give us some assurance that an Equality Impact Assessment of any new arrangement identifies the needs of home educated and external candidates, many of whom have additional support needs and/or disabilities.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ally MacDonald                                                 
Convenor, Home Education Scotland         

Alison Preuss
Scottish Home Education Forum

With support of the following:

Marie Hartigan, Fife Home Education Community
Fran Derrick, Orkney Home Education
Finla Chalmers, Perth Home Education & Alternative Learning
Mairi McMillan, Home Education Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
Margaret Armour, North Lanarkshire Home Education Families & Scottish Home Education – Higher Education Group Pathways to University
Mark Nixon, Central Scotland Home Education Network
Vida Colvin, Dumfries and Galloway Home Education
Mairead Murray, Home Education Glasgow & Edinburgh
Patricia Watson, Ayrshire Home Educators
Melissa Rarity, ABC Education Group, Ayr
Kelly Hobbs. Scottish Borders Home Education
Maryanne Jacobs, Edinburgh Home Education
Mari Scott (Tuesday Group), Glasgow Home Education Groups
Sapna Agarwal (Wednesday Group) Glasgow Home Education Groups
Ailinn Gilroy, Fife Home Educators

See also

Exams & Qualifications information
Home educated candidates doubly disadvantaged by cancelled exams (October 2020)
Home educated candidates to be ‘cancelled’ along with 2021 exams? (August 2020)
Ofqual guidance for ‘locked-down’ private candidates (April 2020)
Parliamentary Question on access to SQA exams and qualifications for home educated young people (July 2017) 
Update from Ireland 

Minister loses appeals over homeschooled Leaving Cert students (Ireland) (RTE, 10 March 2021)

The Minister for Education has lost her appeals against findings that two homeschooled students were unfairly excluded from the Leaving Certificate calculated grades process.  Minister Norma Foley had appealed against the High Court’s decisions in two separate cases. However the Court of Appeal this afternoon dismissed both appeals. The Appeal Court found it was unreasonable and disproportionate and an unlawful breach of the students’ constitutional rights to exclude them entirely from the system. 

It ruled both students had constitutional rights to have reasonable account taken of their situation when education policies were being implemented by the State and both had suffered a “real and significant” impact by their exclusion from the calculate grades scheme. The court also found there was a duty on the State to protect the family’s authority and the parent’s right to homeschool. This duty must include accommodation of the parents’ conscientious choice and lawful preference and it said the rights of the child must receive appropriate recognition by the organs of the State.


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