East Renfrewshire Council came to our attention this week when a home educating parent spotted this claim being touted in her local newspaper, the East Kilbride News, and on a local news website:

“Children must be registered at their local catchment primary, even if parents intend to make a placing request, defer the place for a year, educate them privately, or teach them at home.”

Spot the glaring errors?

Concerned that members of the public were being misled, we contacted the local news website where the offending statement had first been noticed and which had published it verbatim and in good faith from a council press release. To the webmaster’s credit, the page was removed when we pointed out that

“… there is no requirement for parents to “register” their children at their local catchment, or any, primary school if they plan to educate them “by other means” under Section 30 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. This includes elective home education and private schooling.

“It is also worth noting that, even where a parent “registers” a child with a council school, local authority consent to withdraw that child is only required if s/he has attained compulsory education age (as defined in statute) and has attended a state school on one occasion or more. The provision of suitable and efficient education remains a parental responsibility, regardless of whether a child attends school.

“You will find the Scottish Government’s statutory guidance on home education here and further information on our website.

“We would be obliged if you would take steps to amend the offending statement as a matter of priority so that parents who choose not to use council schooling are not misled.”

Since the cited source for this erroneous statement was East Renfrewshire Council, we thought we should take a look at what they had to say about elective home education, in particular their information for parents. Disappointingly but predictably, we could find no mention of ‘home education’, ‘homeschooling’  or even ‘home schooling’ in a comprehensive search of the council’s website. Indeed the only reference we could muster was in relation to registering children at school, which, from reading the council’s ‘information’, anyone would think was compulsory!

east renfrewshire school registration screenshot

Time for another missive, we thought, and in the light of previous experience elsewhere of our enquiries going unacknowledged , our press officer submitted the following  request under the Freedom of Information Act, so that a response would (eventually) be forthcoming.

“Please can you send me a link to your information for parents on elective home education, including a named contact person, or send me the relevant information by email attachment. I can find nothing on your website, not even a link to the Scottish Government’s guidance which expects councils to make such information available and accessible: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/12/17133313/

“Please also send a copy of the relevant statutory vires which requires parents to “register” their children with their local council school, as is claimed in this statement which appears on the page East Renfrewshire Primary school registration next week [cited source: East Renfrewshire Council]:  “Children must be registered at their local catchment primary, even if parents intend to make a placing request, defer the place for a year, educate them privately, or teach them at home.” We are unaware of the existence of any such parental duty.”

We will post an update when we receive the council’s response. *

When it comes to transparency (or otherwise) about the education of children outside state run institutions and the definition of compulsory education age (which begins not at three or four years of age, but after a child’s fifth birthday), the problem of misleading information is, of course, neither new nor exclusive to East Renfrewshire Council. But surely it isn’t too much to ask that local authorities, which are so generously funded by taxpayers, tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to the law of the land, especially when there is supporting statutory guidance to assist them in their understanding and implementation thereof?

We’ll be watching out for these flying pigs as we continue to advance the education of the public (and its servants) in the matter of home education, but meanwhile pork -flavoured propaganda in the form of The Big Lie lives on at public expense. 

* Updated information in comment below.