Home and private education

The parents of children of school age have a legal duty to provide a suitable education for that child by ensuring that the child attends a public school which is a school managed by the Education Authority – or by other means.

In practice, other means refers to parents who choose to pay for their child to attend an independent school or who choose to educate their child at home. The Education Authority has very few duties in relation to these children or young people.

Parents may choose to fund their children to attend independent schools without the need for any discussion with the Education Authority. It is the responsibility of the Scottish Government to ensure that independent schools are properly managed.

The situation is a little different regarding home education. If the child has already started attending a primary or secondary school, then the parent(s) must seek the permission of the Education Authority to educate the child at home. In considering requests, the Education Authority must bear in mind the law which states as a general principle that children should be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parent(s). The Education Authority will ask the parent(s) to produce an outline proposal for how they would educate the child at home. If the Education Authority agrees to the request, the Authority will normally contact the parent(s) once a year to check that the home education is providing a suitable education. However the Authority is not under a legal duty to do this.

If the Education Authority is not satisfied with the proposed or actual arrangements for home education, the Education Authority can issue a notice requiring the parent(s) to provide more information about the arrangements. If the parent(s) fail to provide this information or if the parent(s) provide this information but the Education Authority remains dissatisfied with the arrangements, the Authority may refuse consent for home education and parents have no statutory right of appeal against this refusal. The parent(s) would then have to ensure their child attends a public or independent school. If the parent(s) fail to do this, the Education Authority can issue an attendance order requiring the parent(s) to ensure their child attends a public school. If the parent(s) fail to comply with an attendance order, the Education Authority can take the parent(s) to the District or Sheriff Court. The Education Authority or the Courts can also refer the matter to the Children’s Panel. The Children’s Panel is a government body which investigates cases where a child may be at risk of harm.

If the child has never started at primary public school – or if the child attended a public primary school but has not yet started at a public secondary school – then the parent(s) do not need any permission from the Education Authority to educate at home. However, the parent(s) still have a legal duty to provide a suitable education for the child.

In all cases where parents are considering home education, the Education Authority recommends that parents contact one of the authority’s Quality Improvement Officers for advice as early as possible.