The Law and Home Schooling in Scotland

Scotland and England have two separate Parliaments and two separate systems of law and administration, which affects their different education policies. However, the home schooling law in Scotland is close to that of England: in both countries parents are not obliged by law to sign up their child to a school, and are permitted by law to educate their child at home.

The central difference between Scottish and English education policy on home schooling comes into play when a child has already been attending a mainstream school, and therefore needs to be withdrawn from that school in order to start a home schooling education:

According to the Education (Scotland) Act 1980:

“Where a child of school age who has attended a public school on one or more occasions fails without reasonable excuse to attend regularly at the said school, then, unless the education authority have consented to the withdrawal of the child from the school (which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld), his parent shall be guilty of an offence against this section.”

This means that when a parent wants to take a child out of school to be home schooled, he or she has to have permission from the Local Educational Authority (LEA).

Other Elements of Home Schooling Regulation in Scotland

It is generally assumed that in all other ways home schooling regulation in Scotland is the same as that in England. That means that parents by law have to educate their children, but that education does not have to occur within a school; the National Curriculum does not have to be followed; parents or home tutors in Scotland do not have to have a teaching qualification to teach a child at home

Home Schooling and the Local Education Authority in Scotland

LEAs in Scotland are not obliged by law to ‘monitor’ a child’s home education, but they are permitted by law to informally do so, and they can serve a notice if they deem a parent’s education of a child unsatisfactory for the child’s age, academic ability and aptitude. If the LEA considers that the child’s home education is not sufficient for his or her needs, they have a duty to intervene. Scottish educational policy recommends that LEAs should be in contact with home schooling families annually, but this is a recommendation, not an obligatory pronouncement.

The contact is usually made by writing to the family to set up a meeting or ask for a report of the child’s education. After the contact has been made, the LEA will usually write to the family to say whether they believe that the educational provision is suitable for the child concerned. If the LEA does have concerns about a child’s home school education, they will express those concerns to the parent. Ultimately the LEA has the power to serve an attendance order, which usually means a child will be required to attend school.