Image credit: AHEd

Scottish Borders Council apparently doesn’t have enough to do. Not content with adhering to the primary legislation and guidance framework, in which their role in relation to elective home education is rightly very limited since the provision of education is a parental responsibility, their “joined up” education and children’s “services” are desperately keen to hunt down (with doggedness) any children of compulsory education age who do not use their schools and who may or may not even exist. They apparently plan to leave no haystack (of which there must be many in the rural Borders) unturned in the hope of finding at least one rusty needle which may be in need of threading through their Curriculum for Compliance.

The BBC reported their Tally-ho! call in an article on 20 October 2015: Borders council in call to tighten home education laws

Firstly we note this old chestnut:

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

Let’s get this straight (again!) “Schooling” is no more synonymous with “education” than “Scotland” is synonymous with “UK”, and it is education which is compulsory from the August following a child’s fifth birthday, not schooling. The statement also misrepresents local authority duties under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, which are framed in the negative, i.e. they do not need to “ensure” the provision of education (which is a parental responsibility), but should take action where there is evidence of parental failure. Social workers have equivalent powers to act on evidence of parental failure and are obliged to work to long established intervention thresholds.

For the unenlightened, local authorities are required by law to provide school places for those parents who choose to delegate their responsibility to provide education (or they may just want free daycare). In relation to those who opt to educate “by other means” (e.g. independent schooling or elective home education), their role is strictly limited to making enquiries about parental provision. If Police Scotland or social care services were to seek to extend their corresponding statutory powers in the manner proposed in the Scottish Borders report, no home would be left unsearched and no child left uninterrogated. Then again, they didn’t need to ask, as Part 4 of the CHYP Act has already been foisted by the Scottish Government on an unsuspecting public, who have been turned into a nation of suspects and stripped of their human rights, aided and abetted by a parcel of rogues (and village idiots) in the Scottish Parliament.

Legalities aside, we have yet to meet any local authority education officer who is suitably qualified to “assess” elective home education, since they are invariably teachers who have no experience outside the mass schooling system (although on checking known “named contact” credentials, some aren’t even GTC registered).

Returning to the BBC article:

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

That would be because the provision of education is a parental responsibility. Let’s think it through, folks. Parents are not legally required to tell the council that they are feeding their children,  clothing their children and keeping their children safe from strangers, either. They don’t (yet) have to register their family menu choices to be monitored for suitability, provide clothing and footwear inventories for approval, or present their children for daily checking by the parenting police in the summer holidays. Until August 2016 (when the children’s and parents’ human rights are scheduled for abolition) they only have to endure endless lecturing from finger wagging professional know-alls, many of whom really need “support” to heed their own advice and cut down on sugar, fat, booze and fags if they want to be taken remotely seriously.

Children are not like television sets or cars, for which a licence is required to watch and drive, and councils need to think a great deal more carefully about the implications of introducing a compulsory licensing scheme exclusively for parents who educate “by other means” (which, by definition, also includes all independent schooling parents).  And why stop at non-users of council schools? Should there not also be a register of stay at home parents, Gypsy Travellers, disabled parents, members of faith groups and political parties, private medical and dental patients, vegetarians and vegans, smokers, non vaccinators, parents who decline “services” or refuse to engage with a named person forced on them by the state? Just to make sure they aren’t breaking any laws, they might well argue, as if databasing everyone’s personal information might somehow prevent crime when in fact it encourages certain types of criminal and types of crime, for which sorry will not be nearly enough when children’s data falls into the wrong hands.

But hey, hang on a minute, every child and associated adult has already been added, without a by your leave, to GIRFEC’s insecure, inter-connected databases (all neatly profiled according to their potential risk of not meeting their SHANARRI wellbehaving outcomes) and their personal data is already available to any old professional at the “click of a mouse” according to the distinctly Stasi-inspired training materials we have seen that applaud the creation of what has become known as the new paedophile information exchange. The covert data gathering and profiling on which GIRFEC relies and which has long been misrepresented as a “child protection” measure in order to keep the majority of the public in the dark, has neatly avoided the need to issue yellow badges, which are so last century, and might draw attention to what it’s really about.

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

There they go again. The parental duty in Scotland is to provide education. Got it yet? Meanwhile, councils can’t even ensure that children in their own schools receive anything resembling education, now that the outcomes-based CfE has fatally infected the profession formerly known as teaching. The only anomaly is the one that pertains to council consent, which is bizarrely needed by parents to spring children from council schools (albeit with several exceptions), and which could have been removed in 2000 in line with English law; indeed it would have been, had not the Liberal Democrats abstained from voting on an amendment supported by the SNP and the Tories at Stage 2 of the 2000 Act. Statutory guidance was a poor consolation “prize” and even then, attempts were made by the Scottish Executive to subvert its purpose as agreed by parliament.

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

Writing on our forums, Schoolhouse has since confirmed that it made no mention of numbers when asked to comment by the BBC:

This was our comment in full in response to this report which is full of inaccuracies:

“The report by Scottish Borders Council makes some basic schoolboy errors in relation to elective home education, which they erroneously refer to as ‘home schooling’. We would be very surprised if their demands were taken seriously by the Scottish Government.

“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.

“Local authorities are already entitled to make enquiries about parental provision, whether or not a home educated child has ever attended a council school.  Their Section 37 duty is to take action only where there is evidence that a parent is not providing suitable and efficient education, not to go on fishing expeditions to find an unknown number of children who may never have attended one of their schools for any number of reasons. Do such children even exist, given the raft of mandatory reporting regulations?

“Their time would surely be better spent on meeting their Section 2 duty under the 2000 Act , which obliges them to ensure that  the school education they provide is directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of all pupils to their fullest potential.”

Also according to the BBC article, the Scottish Government has said that it will be

“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.”

There goes that “support” word again, by which they mean “control”. The common language of Newspeak has been formally adopted for use by all state sponsored “professionals”.

Although the Scottish Government would be ill advised to poke the home ed hornets’ nest which so spectacularly saw off Badman and Balls in England, there has been speculation across our networks that Scottish Borders Council may not have thought this up all by themselves and may well have been put up to it by some of the usual suspects. Whatever lies behind it, it is disappointing to see this particular council, which has until now enjoyed the goodwill of our community, jump on to the home education bashing bandwagon.

Best try to get to the bottom of it, we thought:

Correspondence relating to elective home education

Please provide copies of all external and internal correspondence which make reference to elective home education or ‘homeschooling’ from 1st April 2015 to the date of this request.

That would include correspondence received from and sent to local authorities, third sector organisations including charities, representative bodies and individuals (suitably redacted).

My request does not include responses to consultations which are already available in the public domain.

[FOI request submitted 22/10/15, due for response no later than 19/11/15]

In due course (after they have had time to write their promised letter, based on their inaccurate report) a separate FOI request will be sent directly to Scottish Borders Council to obtain a copy of all the clyping correspondence they have exchanged with the Scottish Government and others. It might be an idea for home educators to do likewise with their own LAs to find out what is being cooked up, collectively or on a freelance, loose cannon basis.

We reckon they have underestimated the strength of feeling among home educating families, who make notoriously dangerous prey, and had better re-think the predicted “implications”, especially these:

4.1 Financial There are no costs attached to any of the recommendations contained in this report.

2 Risk and Mitigations (a) There is a risk that the Scottish Government will take no action in respect of the content of the letter.

4.3 Equalities (a) It is anticipated that there are no adverse impact due to race, disability, gender, age, sexual orientation or religion/belief arising from the proposals in this report. There may be increased opportunities for engagement with parents who home school and this may result in reduced isolation.

Since it appears they have nothing better to do with our taxes, perhaps we should make some recommendations of our own. Let’s start by sending them all off on a few time wasting “wild child chases” to keep them busy. 

Will it be a case of Tally ho! or Cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of war? 

[For updates and comments, see this forum thread]