If you are contacted by your local authority regarding your proposed or actual home education arrangements, you should be prepared to offer information about what you intend to do/are doing to provide education (this might include participation in formal or informal activities, outings and visits, arts and crafts, music, use of particular resources etc).
There is no requirement to meet with a local authority officer, or to agree to a home visit, and many home educating families prefer to satisfy all LA enquiries in writing. If, like many parents, you feel daunted by the prospect of responding to the local authority, you will undoubtedly find it helpful to do some background research. Seek out books and articles on home education, talk to practising home educators and join local groups or online support networks, all of which should help you focus your ideas, develop your own educational philosophy and boost your confidence.
You should remember (and perhaps also remind the local authority) that, as a parent, you are an expert on your child’s needs and can offer total commitment and individual attention – you are not after all controlling a crowd of 30+ strangers! Also, there is a growing number of home educators throughout Scotland whose combined experience you can draw upon for support.
How do I create a plan of provision?
Many parents feel daunted by the prospect of producing an outline of their proposed (or actual) home education provision for the local authority, but this need not be complicated or difficult. In fact it can be a very useful exercise for families as it helps them focus on their own individual educational aims and objectives.
The first point of reference for parents who are preparing such an outline should be section 6.2 of the Scottish Government”s statutory guidance to local authorities as this clearly sets out the ‘suggested characteristics of efficient and suitable education’:
In their consideration of parents’ provision of education at home, education authorities may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics:
- Consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers – it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a significant role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education.
- Presence of a philosophy or ethos (not necessarily a recognised philosophy) – it is expected that the parents have thought through their reasons for home educating, showing signs of commitment and enthusiasm, and recognition of the child’s needs, aptitudes and aspirations.
- Opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences.
- Involvement in activities – a broad spectrum of activities to cater for wide varieties of interests appropriate to the child’s stage of development.
- Access to resources / materials required to meet the objectives of the parents – such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity to interact with other children and other adults.
Checklist for preparing an outline of provision
Please note that Schoolhouse does not provide a template for preparing an outline of provision, so please do not request one! Home education provision should essentially be tailored by each family to the learning needs of each individual child.
The following checklist of questions may assist parents in preparing an outline of their home education provision, either for their own use or as a means of satisfying the local authority:
- Will you or your partner be involved in the child’s education on a day to day basis? This may mean actively teaching or as a resource for the child to access for help as and when required.
- Presence of a philosophy or ethos: What do you hope to gain for your child from home education? Do you intend to follow a structured, school-at-home education, an autonomous child-led style or a combination of the two?
- Do you intend to review progress by discussion, by being involved from day to day or by testing? Do you plan to follow the Scottish curriculum guidelines (CfE) or be led by the child’s interests, or another form of curriculum? Does your child have particular needs or interests which you plan to meet?
- How will your child be stimulated from these learning experiences? Will there be opportunity for individual learning?
- What kind of activities will your child be able to take part in? Do they swim, attend clubs, meet with friends, attend group activities of any kind? Do they have particular hobbies you can encourage them to develop?
- What resources do you have available to help you? This might include books, videos, DVDs, television programmes, computer, internet access, CD-ROMS, local sports centres, out of home classes, group activities, local museums and libraries, children’s kits (eg science kits), art and craft supplies.
Please note that Schoolhouse does not provide a template for this purpose, so please do not request one! Home education provision should essentially be tailored by each family to the learning needs of each individual child.
How the Local Authority should respond
On receipt for your letter, the local authority should acknowledge your request immediately in writing. They should then consider quickly whether or not there are any reasons for consent to be withheld. If no evidence exists to support the withholding of consent and you have submitted an outline of your proposed provision, consent may be granted immediately.
If the council refuses or delays its consent, the reasons should be explained to you fully, and if your proposed provision is deemed unacceptable, you should be given an opportunity to amend your plans.
Whether or not you send an outline of your educational provision with your initial request – and it is recommended that you do so – the education department of your local authority should send you a copy of its ‘information/guidelines for parents’. Any information you receive from your council should reflect the content of the statutory guidance for education authorities issued by the Scottish Government.
Local authorities will often suggest a home visit or meeting (probably with one or two officers from their Educational Advisory Service or equivalent) in order to discuss your intention to home educate and establish that you are serious about your decision and committed to your child’s education. You are not, however, obliged to agree to any such visit or meeting. It is up to you to decide how to offer information about your educational provision and address any concerns raised by the local authority. Many home educators choose to keep all communication in writing for future reference and in order to avoid any potential misunderstandings.
You are of course entitled to see a copy of any report that is made by the council recommending the granting (or refusal) of consent to withdraw your child from school.
Withholding of ‘Consent’
According to the law, the local authority may not ‘unreasonably’ withhold its consent for the withdrawal of a pupil from a state school, but parents should be prepared to offer a reasonable amount of information about their educational provision when asked to do so.
Ultimately, if the authority is ‘not satisfied’ as to the appropriateness of the education, it may initiate formal action and possibly seek a school attendance order under section 37 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. For a comprehensive explanation of this process, you should refer to the statutory guidance issued by the Scottish Government.
If a parent consider that the local authority is delaying or unreasonably withholding consent for a child’s withdrawal from school, or believes it has failed to provide accurate information about the law and statutory guidance relating to home education, it may be useful to ask a local councillor or a constituency or regional MSP to investigate the matter.