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A review of the Scottish Executive document - Guidance on the Circumstances in which parents may choose to educate their children at home: Consultation Paper

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Discussion of Issues

Section 1 of current guidance: Introduction

The introduction of the current guidance states the purpose of the guidance, and the legislation under which it is issued; it also recognises home education as a key element of parental choice.

Question 1: Is there anything else you would wish to see in the introduction to the guidance?

Section 2 of current guidance: Legislative Position

Sections 2.1 to 2.5 set out a brief summary of the legal rights and obligations that relate to home education. This is set out in the format of direct quotations from the relevant legislation, with brief descriptive or explanatory paragraphs where considered necessary. There is currently no intention to change any of the legislation relating to home education, only to consult on possible improvements to the guidance.

Question 2: Do you consider that the legal position is presented clearly enough in the guidance?

Question 3: Would the section on the legislative position benefit from:

  • additional descriptive text, or
  • no descriptive text at all, to let the legislation 'speak for itself'?

Section 3 of current guidance: Withdrawing a Child From School

Section 3 of the current guidance sets out the circumstances in which consent is needed for the withdrawal of a child from school, the reasons why parents may withdraw their child from school, and the procedure for withdrawing the child.

Sections 3.2 to 3.4 deal with the circumstances in which consent to withdraw a child must be sought. The rules on who needs consent, and under what circumstances, are not subject to change. However, we would like to know whether users of the guidance find that the rules are set out clearly and unambiguously.

Sections 3.5 and 3.6 give common reasons for parents choosing to withdraw their child from school and educate at home. The reasons for choosing to home educate should have no bearing on whether or not consent is given.

The guidance does not specifically refer to the needs of Gypsy/Traveller families in relation to home education. Although the same rules apply to these families, their situation can often be more complex than others due to, for example, residing in different local authority areas at different times of year.

Section 3.7 sets out the actions parents wishing to withdraw a child from school should take, and the way in which the education authority should act upon parents' requests. The current guidance does not set any timescale within which the authority should respond, simply stating that 'the application for consent should be processed as quickly as possible'. The decision not to specify a timescale followed consultation on the original guidance, and we would now be interested to know how this is working in practice.

Question 4: Is the section on who needs consent set out clearly enough, and if not do you have any suggestions for improvement of this section?

Question 5: Is it necessary to state possible reasons for choosing to home educate, given that this has no bearing on whether consent is given?

Question 6: If you feel it is helpful to state possible reasons, do you believe that the list at section 3.5 should be updated, or does it adequately cover the main reasons for wishing to home educate?

Question 7: Would you find it helpful if the guidance specifically referred to the particular issues surrounding Gypsy/Traveller families and home education?

Question 8: How is the process of requesting to withdraw a child from school currently working without a specified suggested timescale within which the authority should respond?

Question 9: Do you have any suggestions for improvement of the section on withdrawing the child?

Section 4 of current guidance: Developing Relationships

One of the key aims of the guidance is to promote effective relationships between home educators and education authorities. This section sets out a number of ways in which good relationships can be built, including acknowledging diversity, giving clear information and providing, where appropriate, practical support and resources.

Sections 4.12 to 4.15 set out guidelines on the frequency and type of contact that should be maintained between families and local authorities once home education has commenced. We would be interested to hear your views on this. Bear in mind, however, education authorities' responsibilities under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 section 37, i.e. if the authority are not satisfied that suitable and efficient education is being provided, they have a duty to serve a notice requesting the parent to provide evidence, either in person or writing, and, if still not satisfied, can serve an attendance order.

Sections 4.18 and 4.19 deal with child protection issues, with section 4.18 informing parents about disclosure checks for prospective tutors, and section 4.19 advising that any child protection concerns should be raised with the appropriate authorities. As this document primarily deals with educational issues, it was not considered appropriate to enter into detail on the subject of child protection, beyond stating that any child protection concerns should be reported immediately to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.

We would also be interested to hear any other ideas or practical examples you have of how good relationships between home educators and education authorities can be fostered.

Question 10: Do you find the section on developing relationships useful?

Question 11: How is the current guidance regarding frequency and type of contact between home educators and education authorities working, and would you like to see it changed in any way?

Question 12: Do sections 4.18 and 4.19 provide adequate coverage, for the purpose of this guidance, on child protection issues, and if not, what further guidance would you like to see?

Question 13: Do you have any suggestions, not already mentioned in the guidance, of how better relationships can be developed?

Section 5 of current guidance: 'Efficient' and 'Suitable' Education

This section deals with the duty of parents to provide efficient education suitable to the age ability and aptitude of the child, and the requirements on local authorities to monitor whether such education is being provided.

Section 5.5 sets out suggested characteristics of efficient and suitable education, although the guidance acknowledges that the approach of home educators is likely to be dictated by their philosophy or views. There is no definition of efficient and suitable education in legislation.

Sections 5.7 to 5.10 explain the circumstances which might lead to an education authority issuing an attendance order, and what should happen once an attendance order is served.

Question 14: Does section 5 set out clearly enough the roles and responsibilities for providing efficient and suitable education, and the monitoring of that education for:

  • parents?
  • education authorities?

If not, how would you improve it?

Question 15: Do you consider the list of suggested characteristics of efficient and suitable education at section 5.5 helpful and relevant, and if not, would you wish to :

  • amend it?
  • omit it altogether?

Question 16: Is the section on attendance orders helpful, and if not, how would you amend it?

Section 6 of current guidance: Children with Special Educational Needs

This section will be revised to reflect the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 which commenced on 14 November 2005.

The system of assessment and recording of children and young people with special educational needs was replaced by a new framework for additional support needs. Additional support needs are defined more broadly than special educational needs. The term applies to any child or young person who, for whatever reason, requires additional support, to benefit from education.

The Act aims to ensure that the additional support needs of all children and young people are addressed. Education authorities are required to identify, meet and keep under review the additional support needs of all pupils. Appropriate agencies such as NHS Boards and social work services have also duties placed on them to help education authorities when asked to do so.

Parents can request an education authority to establish whether their child has additional support needs and whether they require a co-ordinated support plan. A co-ordinated support plan must be prepared for those with enduring and complex needs who require support from outwith education services.

Additional Support Needs Tribunals have been established to hear appeals related to co-ordinated support plans. Independent Mediation and dispute resolution services must be also be made available by education authorities to help resolve/narrow disagreements between parents and education authorities.

Question 17: Do you have any comments regarding the home education of children with additional support needs, which you feel should be reflected in any revised guidance?

Appendix 1 of current guidance: Qualifications Options

This section sets out study options for educational and alternative qualifications and gives contact details for examining boards. Details will be updated for the revision of the guidance.

Question 18: Do you find it useful to have a section on qualification options in the guidance, and would you like to see any changes or additions to this section?

Appendix 2 of current guidance: Contacts

This section includes contact details for home education organisations and other relevant bodies. We will update this section for the revision of the guidance, and contact all relevant parties to ensure they wish to be included and that their details are up to date.

Question 19: Are there any organisations, or types of organisation, not currently represented that you would like to see included in the contacts section?

Other Issues

We would be grateful to receive your comments on any other issues which we have not specifically identified and which you feel are relevant, bearing in mind that this is a review of the guidance, not the legislation; there is currently no intention to change any of the legislation relevant to home education.

Question 20: Are there any other issues not addressed elsewhere which you feel should be taken into account during the review of the guidance?