Home schooling shouldn’t marginalise a separated parent

The Scottish Government is consulting on its policy regarding children who are being ‘home schooled’.

Shared Parenting Scotland has submitted our response expressing concern that when parents do not live together home schooling should not be a means for one parent to marginalise the role of the other in their child’s life.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly stressed the benefit to children of the full involvement of both their parents in education as a public good in itself.  It is unsatisfactory in the extreme therefore that there is no protection for the child or the other parent when one parent makes a unilateral decision to home school.

Cases brought to Shared Parenting Scotland have fallen under two of the scenarios listed in the consultation where local authority consent is not required for home schooling including ‘a move from one local authority to another’ and ‘withdrawal at the end of primary school’.

The perception of the ‘non-resident’ parents involved – all fathers – is that home schooling has been invoked principally as a means of detaching them from their relationship with their children. Knowing what they are learning and how they can support it is an essential part of parenting. Unilaterally announced home schooling effectively changes the breadth and depth of their child’s previous relationship with the father and their extended family and cut them adrift from their previous social circle of friends and playmates. It effectively takes them off the radar and beyond educational scrutiny.

The UNCRC receives minimal mention in the consultation documents save for a helpful pointer towards those Articles that specifically mention the word ‘education’. However helpfully that may have been intended our view is that if the UNCRC is to mean anything it must be taken as a whole, including the references to the maintenance of parental and family relationships.

The consultation asks for views on whether there should be a national register of home schooled children and home schooling parents.

Shared Parenting Scotland is astonished at the admission that there is no such record already in place.

Without data how can government ever assess with confidence or credibility whether the home school system is working for children in general or for any child in particular?

How can it benchmark the educational outcomes for children or even help the state sector learn from the home schooling sector?

How can it assess the extent to which children need protection from home schooling or whether home schooling is a tactic to exclude one parent from knowledge and involvement with his/her children.

Shared Parenting Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, says, “We feel any new system must include protection of family relationships that may be threatened, undermined or excised by one parent using home schooling as an escape route from accountability. When only one parent makes the request without the agreement of another parent with unmodified Parental Rights and Responsibilities then that should be an alarm bell and a reason for the local authority to make enquiries with both parents.

Children should not be allowed to disappear from the educational radar either within a local authority or within Scotland. It does not dilute the overall permissive principle underpinning home schooling that all children should have their educational status recorded and known.”

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