South Scotland

Borders council in call to tighten home education laws

Mother and child with book Image copyright Thinkstock

The Scottish government will be asked to tighten legislation allowing parents to educate their children at home.

Local authorities are obliged to ensure parents are providing schooling "suitable to age, ability and aptitude".

However, parents are not legally required to tell the council they home educate their children.

Councillors in the Scottish Borders have agreed to write to the government to ask that it amends the law.

The move has been criticised by supporters of home education, who oppose any move towards so-called "parent licensing".

According to Scottish government guidance, parents must get consent to remove their children from school.

They do not need permission for home education itself.

That means there are some home educated children who are unknown to the local council. They include:

  • Children who have never attended a state school
  • Children who have never attended a state school in that authority's area
  • Children who are withdrawn from an independent school
  • Children who finish primary education in one school but have not started secondary education in another
  • The school the children have been attending has closed.

Scottish Borders Council claims the loophole makes it difficult to ensure all children receive an adequate education.

A report to its executive committee said: "For parents who have never sent their children to a Scottish Borders school, officers are unable to acquire any information as to whether the children who are being home schooled receive a satisfactory education appropriate to their age and aptitude."

Up to 6,000 children in Scotland are home educated, according to Schoolhouse Home Education Association.

A spokeswoman for the group cast doubt on whether any unregistered home educated children even exist "given the raft of mandatory reporting regulations".

She added: "It is parents who have the duty to provide education during the compulsory years, whether or not they opt to delegate to council schools.

"Any shift towards parent licensing, which is what is being proposed, would have a range of unintended negative consequences, not least of all the loss of goodwill of home educating families who have, by and large, reported positive engagements with Scottish Borders Council to date."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said their guidance recommends that councils make annual contact with families they know to be educating their children at home.

She added: "We are happy to consider any suggestions that might improve our current approach to supporting home educated children and look forward to receiving Scottish Borders Council's letter on this matter."

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