An MHK suggested the government is being discriminatory towards children who are home-schooled in the House of Keys this week.

Ann Corlett was asking the education minister what plans there are to enable young people who are home educated to benefit from the University College Isle of Man 14-16 Schools Link Programme.

It gives pupils the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of vocational education and the career opportunities available in the island through collaboration with local schools. The pupils involved attend the college for half a day a week for two years.

Education Minister Julie Edge said there are ‘no plans at present’ to offer places to home educated 14- to 16-year-olds.

‘It’s offered through a Key Stage 4 school/UCM collaboration pathway with a limited number of places allocated to each school,’ she said. ‘If a young person is not registered at a school, they are unable to apply to be part of this.’

Mrs Corlett explained that ‘this is UCM, not school’.

She asked how parents were expected to educate their children in more vocational topics, such as engineering.

Ms Edge said: ‘Obviously that access is available once the student reaches the age of 16.’

Mrs Corlett challenged the minister on this point, asking: ‘Is the current policy then discriminating? Is it disadvantaging?’

The minister said: ‘The department’s responsibility is for the students who are in our schools; and the pathway is for the students who are currently in our schools,’ she said. ‘I think we do need to look at that policy to see if there is access. There are a number of issues within that with regard to safeguarding, because the college is an environment where we have adults as well.’

The Douglas Central MHK said after the sitting: ‘This is an opportunity for a young person to take the first step on the ladder to their chosen career. How are parents to educate their children in engineering for example, without access to trained instructors, premises and equipment?

‘If we really are to provide all young people equal opportunity to achieve their true potential we should give consideration to including those who are home educated in this particular policy.

‘Twenty-two secondary school age students are registered as home educated this year, very few of which are 14 years old and only a few of them would be interested in taking up the opportunity if it were offered.

‘Surely this is worth further consideration? Especially as the training being offered is in sectors where skills are most needed at the moment.’