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Old 24-06-19, 10:44
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Default Health visitors fail to get it right for home education families

PRESS RELEASE from the Scottish Home Education Forum

Health visitors fail to get it right for home education families

The Scottish Home Education Forum has today (24 June) published new research on home educating families' experiences of the health visiting service in Scotland. Under the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) regime, health visitors have been designated 'named persons' for all children under five years of age, although their service is optional.

The survey was prompted by an increase in members’ concerns that focused on the quality and accuracy of information and advice offered by health visitors in relation to childcare, nursery and school options for children, and the lack of openness regarding the voluntary nature of the heath visiting service.

The report states:

"Although there is undoubtedly some exemplary practice within the health visiting service in Scotland, our findings will nevertheless make uncomfortable reading for practitioners and their representative and regulatory bodies. They will also send a strong message to the government that a main plank of its GIRFEC policy is categorically not working for a significant number of home educating families."

The forum is currently co-petitioning the Scottish Parliament with Tymes Trust for a public inquiry into the human rights impact of the GIRFEC policy on children and families and has recently submitted case studies outlining members' adverse experiences to the Education & Skills Committee where it is currently being considered.

The report continues:

"Home educators are exercising an equally valid choice enshrined in law and feel stigmatised by references to ‘unseen children’ and ‘hostile, non-engaging parents’, which have been used by health visitors and fellow professionals to ‘other’ our minority community. This baked-in bias has contributed to the hostile environment described by our members and is, we believe, at least partly responsible for incidences of ‘home-eduphobia’ (hateful conduct towards home educated children and their families), often by those who should know better."

However, the report also acknowledges that the problems are not of health visitors’ own making and lie firmly at the door of government, three years after the Supreme Court ruled against the information sharing provisions in the 2014 Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. "They [health visitors] have simply been swept along with the GIRFEC policy tide that has sent them perilously close to the jagged rocks of GDPR and human rights", it notes.

The number of home educated children in Scotland has grown significantly in recent years. Recent research by the home education forum found the increase was being driven predominantly by families whose children have disabilities, chronic conditions and additional support needs that cannot be met by schools, including autism, severe school anxiety and mental health issues.

Highlighting the inconsistencies in practice and exclusionary approach to the needs of home educating families, the forum makes a number of recommendations, which they will now press the government to take forward as a priority. In particular, they want to see mandatory specialist training for health visitors who are being expected to assess 'wellbeing' in the absence of a statutory definition or clear, inclusive guidance that properly recognises elective home education as an equally valid educational option.

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