Are We Discriminating Against Home Schoolers?

The Education Minister has said her department needs to look at whether it can allow home schooled children onto the School Links Programme at UCM, but that the department has other priorities.

Julie Edge was questioned on the programme, which links up UCM with the island’s high schools, by MHKs during this morning’s Keys sitting.

Douglas Central MHK Ann Corlett had asked Ms Edge what plans she has to enable home schoolers to benefit from the scheme. In response, the Minister explained that the programme is ‘offered through specific Key Stage 4 School/UCM collaboration pathway, with a limited number of places allocated to each school as part of their curriculum offer’.

She added: ‘Schools manage the allocation of the limited places available to their students based on their prior attainment to support successful completion of the course. If a young person is not registered at the school, then they are unable to apply to be part of this school provision at UCM. There are no plans at present to offer places to UCM to home-educated 14-16 year olds through this school curriculum offer.’

Engineering?

Mrs Corlett said that while she agrees that if a parent decides to home school then their children’s education is the responsibility of the parent, she said ‘this is UCM, this is not school, this a first step on a ladder to their chosen career’.

She added that UCM has four realistic working environments available for students to help them gain employment and asked how parents are to educate home-schoolers on areas like engineering if they don’t have access to the equipment at UCM and asked Ms Edge whether it was up to DESC to help the students as much as possible?

Ms Edge said that if a student, aged 14-16, from a high school goes to UCM, they are accompanied with a member of staff and that for home schooled children, the UCM option is available, but only once they reach 16.

Discriminating

However Mrs Corlett asked if that doesn’t just mean that the policy is discriminating against home schoolers and is unfair and asked the Minister if she could say it isn’t.

In response Ms Edge that parents who home school have made a choice and that choice, and gov policy, removes their child from the pathway that exists through the island’s schools and that there are a number of other priorities for the department to look at before this one.

When Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Tim Glover rose to ask the Minister to answer whether she believed the matter was discriminating against home schooled children, she again repeated that the DESC’s responsibility is for children in the island’s schools and that the pathway onto the scheme is for those children.

But she did add: ‘With regard to discriminatory against access for home school educated person, I think we do need to look at that policy to see if there is access, however there are a number of issues within that in regards to safeguarding. The college is an environment where we have adults as well, so it’s not just looking after the 14-16 year old, it is an adult education provision as well.’