The Scottish Consumer Council has published its response to the Scottish Executive consultation on home education.
Our first report on home education (Home Works; Local authorities’ approaches to working with home educating parents in Scotland) was published in 2000. This research was updated and expanded upon in 2007 with the publication of Home-based education: Towards Positive Partnerships. This more recent research report includes an analysis of local authorities policies and procedures, case studies of home educating families’ experiences and reports on a seminar on home education held on 15th January 2007. We hope that the research findings will be taken into account during the Scottish Executive review of the current guidance. The full report of this research is enclosed for further information.
The key recommendation of Home-based education: Towards Positive Partnerships (SCC, 2007) is that the Scottish Executive should revise the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to allow parents to remove a child from school and home educate upon written notification to the local authority. We would like to reiterate that recommendation here. We do not believe that the current legislative position, where children have to continue to attend school until the local authority makes a decision, is in the best interests of the child. Written notification would allow local authorities to ensure that they were aware of all children in this situation. In cases where the authority has child protection concerns or concerns over the suitability of the education provided, the local authority would retain powers to intervene. This legislative change would tend to define the duties on local authorities as ‘negative’ acting only when they have evidence of concerns, than a ‘positive’ power to intervene and investigate without evidence of concern.
The current draft of the Scottish Executive guidance focuses on the need for local authorities to develop positive partnerships with home educating families. We strongly suggest that this approach is retained within revised guidance. We would also like to suggest that, the Scottish Executive demonstrate their commitment to positive partnerships by convening a working group to develop the guidance. This working group should involve representatives of home educators and their families, local authority officers and other interested organisations. This mechanism would help to develop guidance that reflects the needs of all parties.