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Home Education Report 2007-03-11

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Intolerance, Scotland.
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Elaine knew it was time to remove her son James from his school when he told her he wanted to die. The 14-year-old had suffered years of torment at the hands of bullies and could take no more.

‘He sat down beside me one day and said, “Mum, I don’t want to live any more”,’ said Elaine.

‘The bullying had become horrific.

‘I was finding it very difficult to send him to school, and he would make up illnesses so he didn’t have to go.’

For identity protection, Elaine and James are false names.

Elaine, who lives near Glasgow told the school about his daily ordeal, but after getting no satisfaction, she decided to remove him.

The local authority was unable to find an alternative school for James and, after reading about home education, Elaine decided that was the way to go.

Despite the publication of ‘Scottish Executiveguidelines to make it easier for parents to educate their children at home, Elaine said her local authority was unhelpful. She said:

‘They told me they would send officers to supervise my home education, which is far removed from the guidance.

‘It was as though they wanted to put obstacles in my path.’

According to a report published 2007-02-16 (download pdf) by ‘The Scottish Consumer Council’ (‘The SCC’), Elaine is not alone; the report, based on a Scotland-wide survey of local authorities, finds ‘wide variations’ in the way councils applied the rules.

‘This can lead to increased tension between families and council staff which, ultimately, can be damaging for children,’ the report says.

Although parents in England & Wales can withdraw their children from school if they submit a written request, local authorities in Scotland have to give their permission before a child can be educated at home.

‘The SCC’ report says the way the rules are interpreted differs from council to council, while some parents also complained about the time taken to process their request.

With the most recent ‘Scottish Executive’ figures showing a 39 per cent increase in the number of young people being educated at home, ‘The SCC’ report also calls for a law change to bring Scotland into line with England & Wales.

The chairman of ‘The SCC’ Mr.Douglas Sinclair said the right to home-educate was:

‘a fundamental entitlement of every parent in Scotland’.

‘While some councils approach this in a positive and supportive manner, others are employing a heavy-handed approach, which can be intimidating to parents and, in some cases, their children.’

A review by ‘The Scottish Executive’ into the current guidance ends today, but the findings are not expected to be published until after the ‘Holyrood’ (Scottish parliament) election.

The Education Spokesman for the local authority umbrella group COSLA — Councillor Mr.Charlie Gray — gave ‘The SCC’ report a cool response. He said:

‘It represents the views of some home-educating parents, but does not adequately emphasise home-educators’ responsibilities.

‘”The SCC” makes some helpful recommendations, but we have strong concerns about introducing legislation to allow parents to withdraw their child from school on written notification.’

TOO NARROW A POINT OF VIEW?

Critics of ‘Home Education’ claim it does not provide the same breadth of learning that school does.

However, its supporters insist that, by removing youngsters from the classroom, they are no longer constrained by the curriculum and have more freedom to explore subjects that truly interest them.

Research carried out in England & Wales found that home-educated children demonstrated ‘a generally high level of performance’. However, opponents say that being taught at home means youngsters find it more difficult to interact with other children.

Those in favour of home education, however, counter that being removed from the school environment makes youngsters more independent and able to plan their own day.

‘HE WAS UTTERLY BORED’

After two years of watching her son David struggle at school, Ms.Sheila Struthers decided to teach him at home.

‘He was switching off, completely, utterly bored,’ she said.

‘He was doing absolutely nothing for most of the day except twiddling his pencil.’

Although she expected Home Education to be a temporary situation, it is now permanent.

Ms.Struthers, of Ochiltree in East Ayrshire, said:

‘I had taught my oldest daughter at home for a while.

‘She eventually went back to school, but he’s so much happier that there’s no point.

‘We’re not arguing every night about homework and he’s doing things that he’s really interested in.’

She added that David, 12, is able to indulge his passion for reading, as well as other things.

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