Having met with the Scottish Government several times over the past year to raise concerns about some local authorities’ misrepresentation and misapplication of both education legislation and overarching human rights and data protection laws, the Scottish Home Education Forum is pleased that the statutory guidance is to be updated after 12 years.
The government has made it clear that no changes are planned to primary legislation, which accords equal legal status to home education and council schooling. It is of course incumbent upon government to ensure that the statutory guidance complies with the ECHR and GDPR, which are given effect across the UK by Human Rights Act 1999 and Data Protection Act 2018. That same non-negotiable compliance principle applies equally to all public bodies, including councils.
That the current guidance has served so well (as long as it is adhered to) for so long is undoubtedly due to the intensive consultation that preceded its introduction in December 2007. It was also informed by the findings from joint research undertaken by the then Scottish Consumer Council and home educators, which highlighted the need for a number of improvements to the 2004 version.
The Scottish Home Education Forum is currently engaged in a major new piece of research to determine how well LAs are serving home educating families, and we hope to report our findings in autumn 2019.
Meanwhile, we have had further constructive discussions with with the Scottish Government team tasked with revising the guidance and have now made a substantial submission, based around legal advice, to assist them in the process. In the interests of transparency, we are committed to publishing all such contributions.
We will focus on some of the more pressing points we have identified, as well as indirectly related matters, in future articles as our research progresses.
We believe that the upcoming review offers the Scottish Government an ideal opportunity to produce guidance that is also in keeping with the UNCRC prior to its incorporation into Scots law, and that this can best be achieved by hearing the views of home educated children and young people and their parents. The Forum’s submission to the UNCRC incorporation consultation can be read here.