A Petition to the Scottish Parliament

What’s been said?

With the pressures of recent weeks, during which English home educators have been focussed on the DfE consultation, it has been easy for them to forget that HE is also under attack in other parts of Great Britain. We have commented previously on developments in Wales and the Isle of Man. As in England, full-frontal attacks have been mounted on HE in both these places. This has not been the strategy in Scotland however, but, the threat to parental responsibility there, if it is ever fully implemented, will impact every family.

The Named Person scheme was dealt a significant blow in July 2016 when the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that it breached human rights legislation. However the Scottish government continues to work hard at trying to implement its plans to supervise all parents. The GIRFEC Practice Development Panel is charged with ensuring “the draft Code of Practice and Statutory Guidance supported by other materials properly reflect relevant legal requirements…”

On 29 June, The National newspaper reported, Call for human rights inquiry into Holyrood data-sharing policies. It stated that Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust, and Alison Preuss of the Scottish Home Education Forum had submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament highlighting concerns about the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, under which the Named Person regime would be established as an expression of the GIRFEC policy. It called for a public inquiry into the impact on human rights of the routine gathering and sharing of citizens’ personal information under this scheme.

Why does it matter?

Getting It Right For Every Child has a similar foundation to the Every Child Matters [ECM] policy in England, which resulted in the Children’s Act of 2004, cited in the recent consultation to justify LAs intervening in HE families on “safeguarding” grounds. Whilst not specifically focussed on HE, GIRFEC is similarly focussed on the state, not parents, being the primary ‘safeguarder’ of all children. One has to wonder whether Scotland has not brought forward any proposals to change EHE guidance because the SNP believe that the Named Person scheme will achieve the same outcomes. The HE charity Schoolhouse very soon saw the scheme as a threat to HE families and supported the NO2NP campaign out of which the successful court action came.

Before the Supreme Court’s ruling the Scottish government had already rolled out pilot schemes and data had already been illegally exchanged amongst different agencies. It is the impact of those trials, and the ongoing lag in rectifying the practice, which the Scottish petitioners are asking to be investigated. Just before the scheme was due to be introduced in 2016, one father spoke to The Scotsman about the contents of their “Family Record”, access to which he had fought for for eight months. A respected academic, he described the 60 page dossier as “notes made of very trivial things and constant surveillance of small things that are part of everyday parenting”. Items of concern recorded by the “named person” included nappy rash and a two-year old sucking their thumb.

What can I do?

First and perhaps most importantly, if you are trying to understand the connection between the concern over HE and the perceived need of children’s services staff to know the minutest details of your children’s’ lives, you need to think carefully about GIRFEC, ECM and similar policies which have been adopted by governments. Originally argued for on the grounds of keeping children safe, these have instead becomes the hinges on which the state is trying to force open your family’s front door so their “Guardians” can supervise your parenting.

Secondly, take heart. Remember that in the case of the Named Person scheme, the courts did stand up to the state. The new GDPR laws should make it easier to protect the right we all have to a private family life. But protecting that freedom will not happen if responsible parents do nothing. In Scotland, keep watching how the government is trying to circumvent the court’s ruling. In England, maintain contact with MPs and other politicians. Keep telling them that parents are, in the majority of cases, better at keeping children safe than those whose loyalties lie outside the family.

Wherever you live, keep on the lookout for further proposals to increase state surveillance of families and cry “Foul!” before they get their plans onto the statute books.