‘Registration’ petition revisited

We have posted previously about this 11-signature Scottish Parliament petition calling for the registration (or ‘licensing’) of home educated children, in particular highlighting our concerns over omissions and inaccuracies in the accompanying SPICe briefing.

It is our intention – time permitting – to make a formal submission to the Petitions Committee in the light of the following further developments, drawing on our most recent evidence-based research findings.  

After its previous consideration of this petition, the Committee wrote to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, and received this response from him on 19 October 2019. It was in line with what we might have expected, intimating that a review of statutory guidance is in the pipeline – something the Scottish Home Education Forum has long been urging the government to progress in order to ensure its compliance with overarching human rights and data protection legislation.

It was also reassuring to note this paragraph in the Cabinet Secretary’s letter, which helpfully separates and re-states the relevant thresholds for intervention on education and child protection grounds:

“It is important to emphasise that these provisions on education are separate from any wellbeing concerns regarding the child or young person that is being home educated. Local Authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area regardless of where there are educated. It is always the case that if a child is considered to be at risk of significant harm, then practitioners have a duty to take necessary and proportionate actions to address those concerns through child protection procedures.” [our bold]

Here is a video of ongoing consideration of Scottish Parliament Petition PE01730 by the Petitions Committee on 20 February 2020.


Here is the transcript:

The Convener: The next continued petition is PE1730, by Kenneth Drysdale, on the registration of home-educated children in Scotland. The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to conduct an urgent review to identify children who are not registered with an education authority and are being denied the basic human right to access an education suitable to age, ability and aptitude. Since the publication of the meeting papers, the petitioner has provided an additional submission, which provides information on how often local authorities have used their powers under section 37 of the Education Act 1980 to issue a notice to parents following concerns that a child has not received efficient education. That submission has been circulated to members. Do members have any comments or suggestions for action?

Brian Whittle: This is quite a complicated petition. We probably all have constituency cases in which home schooling <sic> has become the only option in the circumstances. How those children get to interact with other children has always been my concern. The petitioner makes a strong point. Because a revised home education guidance publication is in the offing, we could write to the Scottish Government in the first instance, seeking clarification about the timescale for delivery of that guidance. We could also write to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, seeking details of local authorities’ positions and what they might have in place to make sure that they are fulfilling their statutory duty. We could therefore do a couple of things to move the petition on. We need to pursue it.

Gail Ross: I agree with that.

The Convener: Does anyone else have anything to suggest?

Maurice Corry: I am looking at the petitioner’s submission of 11 February, which details the responses of five local authorities. South Ayrshire Council has concerns about 21 children, which is quite a high number. There is obviously some inconsistency, so I support what my colleague has just said. We need to write to the Scottish Government and COSLA to get some information.

The Convener: Through my own experience, I can understand why, in certain circumstances, parents actively choose to home educate their children. It may be because they feel that they have no choice, because their child is struggling in the education system, or because the education system is not sufficiently responsive to or supportive of them. On the other hand, I spent a significant part of my professional life as a teacher trying to make sure that young people got the education that they were entitled to, sometimes when there was not the family support to get them into school. Those are two completely different things, but there is a responsibility to ensure that a child has access to the education to which they have a right. There is an important balance to strike in how that is done, and I think that we are also seeking reassurance on that. That is my sense of what is behind the petition. No one would suggest that we do not support home education, but the importance of a young person’s education is also part of it. We are agreed to write to the Scottish Government and COSLA in those terms.

It is especially disappointing to see ‘home schooling’ misterminology going unchallenged during the committee exchanges, which we will again highlight in our planned submission. We will also be making reference to the prevalence of coercive control exerted by former partners in relation to the home education of children, which our most recent research has clearly identified and is highly relevant to this particular petition. 

We certainly don’t need to be Mystic Meg to predict COSLA’s response!

This archived article from 2001, Marching for freedom in education, covers many of the same arguments used by hostile and home-eduphobic vested interests, including COSLA and ADES, in seeking to override the parental legal responsibility to provide education purely for financial gain.

“The Scottish Executive admit that they believe that the best place for children to be educated is in school, yet school fails many more children than home education does. In law, education other than at school is equally valid to education in school, so home educators do not accept that a self-confessed biassed Scottish executive should be writing a document on how Local Authorities should treat home educators. COSLA, who has clearly had much input into the document, has a position of vested interest; in a joint paper with ADES they say ‘the more children educated at home, the less funding made available for the local authority’.

As the saying goes:

Once a rent seeker

Meanwhile, we have had cause to revisit this FOI response from 2015 and cannot help but put two and two together. Suffice to say it will be the subject of further reporting in due course.

Read our submission to the Petitions Committee

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