Home educators have reacted angrily to comments made by Highland councillors who have inferred a direct link between home-based educators and ‘dysfunctional families’. [Report in Press and Journal, 27 January, ‘Concern over amount (sic) of children taught at home’]
In the wake of representations from members and the wider home education community, the national home education support forum is considering making a formal complaint to the Standards Commission, the body which investigates alleged breaches of the code of conduct for elected members.
Home education campaigner, Alison Preuss, said:
“Home educators invite Highland councillors to withdraw the comments they have made about home-based education being a cause for concern and would remind them of their duty to respect and uphold the law at all times. According to Scottish Executive guidance, home-based education is a key aspect of parental choice and parents do not require the local authority’s permission to educate their children outside the school system. The only consent that parents in Scotland currently require is for the withdrawal of their child from a state school, and this may not be unreasonably withheld by the council.
“Highland councillors have evidently expressed grave concern at the number of children in the area who are being home educated, describing it as ‘scary’. But it should come as no surprise that parents are bypassing a school system which is no longer fit for purpose and is widely held to be failing countless youngsters.
“Highland councillors also seem to believe that parents need a reason to remove their children from the school system when, legally, the provision of education is a parental function. Schools are there to serve families and should of course be subject to a rigorous inspection regime so that parents can have confidence in those to whom they entrust their children’s education.
“Our own grave concern is that some elected members are misrepresenting the legal position, deliberately or otherwise, and implying that parents are generally not to be trusted with their own children’s education. In reality, councils already have adequate powers to intervene if they have evidence that suggests a failure on the part of parents, and claiming that the law is about to be changed to suit their Big Brother agenda is disingenuous.
“We are now considering whether to make a formal complaint to the Standards Commission about a possible breach of the councillors’ code of conduct as it is unacceptable for elected members to seek to mislead the public in this way.
“Home educating families in Highland have been asked to speak to the media about their experiences, but none we have contacted is prepared to do so in the light of such irresponsible comments by people who should know better.
“Research evidence is stacking up that home educated children are more socially adept than their schooled peers and that they consistently outperform them in standard academic tests. The bad news about home-based education is very hard to find, and a deliberate smear campaign against law abiding home-based educators will not be tolerated.”
Home education groups met with the Scottish Executive last week to discuss aspects of the statutory guidance on home education which is currently being reviewed. There are no plans to amend the primary legislation in which “education by other means” is enshrined as an equal choice to state schooling.