Home education laws in Scotland

Home education mum and daughter
Are you a parent in Scotland considering home-educating your child? We explain the legal process you'll need to follow.

Under Scottish legislation, parents have the right to educate their child at home, whether they've already started at school or have never yet attended. As the law states:

It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.

You don’t have to follow the Scottish curriculum, or have any teaching qualifications or experience, to home educate your child. 

Expressing your intention to home educate in Scotland

The procedure for notifying the authorities of your intention to home educate your child differs depending on your circumstances.

If your child is already at a public school, you must write to your local authority (LA) to ask permission to withdraw them. It's recommended that you do this as soon as possible having made the decision to home educate, and include some initial proposals about how you plan to provide an education. The LA should respond within six weeks and can’t unreasonably withhold its consent to your child's withdrawal from school, although it may do in extreme circumstances, for example if a child is on the Child Protection Register.

If your child hasn’t started school, has never attended a school in the LA area in which you now live, has been attending a public school that has now closed, is in between primary and secondary school, or has previously attended an independent school, you don't need to do anything. However, many LAs prefer you to let them know of your intention to home educate, although there's no duty for you to. This also applies if you've been home educating in one LA area and have moved to another.

The Scottish Government publishes a useful guide to home education.

What if my child has special educational needs?        

The law is the same if your child has special educational needs (SEN), whether they attend a mainstream or special school. You must write to your local authority to ask permission to withdraw your child from school. You're likely to be asked how you intend to cater for your child’s additional needs at home.

Providing evidence about home education in Scotland

There's no legal obligation to provide the LA with evidence about how you plan to educate your child, but you might want to let them know that you intend to home educate, and give them some initial information about your plans. If the LA has reason to suspect that a child isn't receiving a suitable education, they can serve an attendance order, which compels you to provide any information it requires to be satisfied about the educational provision within seven to 14 days, so it's always worth complying with information requests.

Do home educating families have to be inspected?

Legally, no, but your LA has a duty to make sure you're providing a suitable education. The Scottish government suggests local authorities make annual contact with you. They might ask to arrange a meeting or for an updated written report about how you're educating your child. The LA will then write to you to let you know (in most cases) that there were no issues with the educational provision, and won't need to contact you for another 12 months.

If the LA has concerns about the education provided, they must make their reasons clear in writing.

The LA can't insist on access to your home unless there are child protection issues. However, if you don't comply with the LA's requests for information, they may come to the conclusion that this is because you're not providing a suitable education, and, in extreme circumstances, could serve an attendance order. Ultimately, this could result in you having to send your child back to school, so it's best to work with the LA officer.

Is the law on home education different throughout the UK?

Yes. See our guides to the laws in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.