The SPICe is not always right: questions over home education briefing

Our attention was recently drawn to this SPICe briefing in respect of Scottish Parliament Petition PE01730 (with 11 signatures), which calls for the ‘registration’ (or, more accurately, ‘licensing’) of children who are electively home educated in Scotland. 

We will critique this particular ‘call’ in due course, but we were immediately concerned by a number of omissions and inaccuracies in the accompanying briefing. We therefore contacted SPICe on 31 August 2019 to highlight the errors and request that appropriate amendments be made. 

In the interests of transparency, here is a transcript of our communication:

Dear SPICe

I refer to your briefing on petition PE1730 which relates to home education.

It is disappointing to note that Section 30 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 is misrepresented in the briefing: 

“The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (“the 1980 Act”) states that the statutory responsibility for the provision of education rests with individual local authorities. This includes the option for parents to choose to home educate their children (Section 30).”
In fact, the duty to provide education during the compulsory years lies entirely with parents, not with “individual local authorities” who are simply obliged to prove school education to those who delegate that duty:
“30. Duty of parents to provide education for their children.
(1) It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.
(2)Section 1 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 (asp 6) (right of child to be provided with school education by, or by virtue of arrangements made by, an education authority) is without prejudice to the choice afforded a parent by subsection (1) above. “
It is also disappointing that the briefing makes no reference to published research by the Scottish Home Education Forum, which has been shared with the Scottish Government. 
Moreover, the ASN inquiry that is mentioned in the briefing serves only to highlight that the evidence taken by the Education & Skills Committee failed to include those with unique expertise in home education.
Our 2018 survey on reasons for school-age children being in home education pointed to the increase in numbers being driven predominantly by families whose children have unmet ASNs, yet this was never brought to the attention of the committee. Indeed one of those with whom it had been directly discussed saw fit to propose that a non-home education-related group be asked to conduct a survey and report back, essentially duplicating our existing work.
With specific reference to Petition PE1730, we have just published a fulsome submission to the Scottish Government in advance of its review of the 2007 home education guidance. It covers all of the pertinent issues and case law, and I would draw your attention in particular to the section (on page 24) that references coercive control by some absent parents, as evidenced via FOIs and subject access requests. 
I would also refer you to our June 2019 report into home educators’ experiences with the health visiting service in Scotland. We have invited the Scottish Government, the children’s commissioner, the NMC and RCN to respond to these findings. 
The BBC report referred to in your briefing was not a reliable indicator of the number of home educated children in Scotland and was more comprehensively researched by a Daily Mail journalist who agreed to share her FOI responses with us. In fact, we now have up to date (as of August 2019) information from FOI returns from 26 out of 32 LAs as part of a new piece of research we are conducting. The six LAs who have failed to respond by the statutory deadline will be referred to SICO if the requests remain unfulfilled. 
I am copying the petitions committee clerk into this email with a request that it is brought to the committee’s attention.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for further clarification.
Scottish Home Education Forum
For the record, apart from acknowledging receipt, no response was received from SPICe.

We also copied the Petitions Committee into our correspondence, asking for our points to be noted by members. They responded promptly to say that it would be highlighted to the committee that

“it is parents with whom the duty to provide education during the compulsory years lies and that this is a duty that individual local authorities are delegated by parents and only then do they have a duty to provide education to those parents’ children.”

At the subsequent meeting on 19 September 2010, the Convener did in fact refer to our representation, but we note that the SPICe briefing remains uncorrected.

It was also somewhat surprising that the committee did not consider writing to the Scottish Home Education Forum, given our unparalleled specialist knowledge and expertise in home education in Scotland, and the fact that we had brought specific points and omissions to their attention.

We may make a formal submission in due course when further correspondence and submissions are published. 

Update on petition here


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *