Jury service and home education
When stay-at-home and/or home educating parents are called for jury service, it can be well nigh impossible to make suitable arrangements for children whose care/education is not sub-contracted to childminders, nurseries or schools.
It is a source of continuing frustration that the specific responsibilities of stay-at-home parents and home educators are so often overlooked or misunderstood when it comes to granting excusal or exemption. Even when a parent has been excused on one occasion, jury service is usually only deferred for a year before a fresh citation is received, and the issue is one that has been raised increasingly frequently in home education networks over the past few years.
The fact that evidence of home educating ‘status’ is generally required by the court service before granting a deferment to parents of school-age children, excusal or exemption poses particular problems for those families who, quite legitimately, have no contact with their local authorities.
When applying for an excusal or exemption, it is important to underline the fact that parents have direct responsibility for the full-time care of children below school age and/or for the compulsory education “by other means” of school-age children in accordance with Section 30 the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. It would most likely constitute arbitrary interference with Article 8 of the ECHR to require parents to abandon their children for jury service and may well also contravene the Equality Act 2010.
The Scottish Court Service has been furnished with information on elective home education and excusals have since been granted for parents who have been called (and recalled) for jury service owing to their concomitant legal responsibilities which could not reasonably be undertaken by anyone else in their absence.
For more information, see:
UPDATE (May 2021)
We sought definitive advice from the Scottish Government after one of our members reported intransigence over excusal by a sheriff court clerk, which had not been encountered by other home educators who had explained their home educating status.
We pointed out:
Home education is much more than ‘childcare’ and cannot readily be delegated. The legal duty to provide education must be balanced with the requirement to serve on a jury. There is also no good reason to demand LA confirmation of status since home education is a parental provision and many families will not be in touch with their councils. This would include parents of children who have not attained compulsory education age and do not attend nurseries or other settings outside the home.
Our Scottish Government contact has responded as follows:
Regarding excusal for jury duty for home educators, there is no law to the effect that home educators should be excused from jury duty, and I cannot see any specific mention of caring responsibilities or home education as a specific category for excusal in legislation. However, the clerk of court may deem it appropriate to excuse a home educator from jury duty where they consider it appropriate and deem there to be a good reason for excusal.
In the guidance provided by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service on jury excusal, there are 2 categories of individuals who can apply to be excused under section 30 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.
The grounds can be either:
1) due to ill health or physical disability,
2) due to other special circumstances.
It seems this latter category would be the only one under which a home educating parent could apply for an excusal, and the individual would therefore need to provide evidence as to why they are not able to undertake jury service. When applying for an excusal from jury service, a home educating parent may find it useful to state the statutory duty placed on each parent of a school age child under section 30 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, and that the parent is meeting this duty by home educating their child.