Local Authorities

The Role of Your Local Authority

Revised statutory guidance on home education was issued to local authorities by the Scottish Executive in January 2008 following extensive consultation with the home education community and other interested bodies. This aimed to both clarify many previously ‘grey’ areas and to help  thaw sometimes strained past relationships between home educators and local authorities.

Most Scottish local authorities now accept the premise that home education need not be anything like school provision, but some education officers still contend (erroneously) that families should conform to a structured model, or they may seek to impose other criteria that are not legally required or do not adhere to the home education guidance. Some elected members also remain highly resistant to the very concept of home education and have been known to ignore professional advisers’ reports and recommendations in an effort to block or delay home education requests.

In cases where prejudice and hostility are evident, families are strongly advised to report details of their experience to Schoolhouse and the Scottish Government Education Department. They may also consider complaining directly to the Chief Executive of their local authority and enlisting the support of their constituency and/or regional list MSPs, a number of whom have helped resolve such difficulties in the past.

Communication with the Local Authority

If you are known to be home educating or planning to home educate, you can expect the education department of your local authority to send you a copy of its ‘information/guidelines for parents’. Any information you receive from your council should broadly reflect the content of the statutory guidance for education authorities which was issued by the Scottish Government in January 2008. Authorities are expected to have regard to this guidance and you are strongly advised to familiarise yourself with its content so that you can satisfy yourself that all the information you receive from your council is both accurate and up to date.

Local authorities will often suggest a home visit or meeting (probably with one or two officers from their Educational Advisory Service or equivalent) in order to discuss your intention to home educate and establish that you are serious about your decision and committed to your child’s education. You are not, however, obliged to agree to such a visit or meeting and may opt to provide evidence of your education provision by other means, e.g. a written report. The authority may also ask you for your reasons for wishing to home educate and your qualifications, none of which you are obliged to give as home education, like schooling, is an equal legal choice which requires neither explanation nor justification and you need no formal qualifications to educate your own child.

Local authority officers will usually enquire about any plans for integration into school and/or future exams (which young people are not obliged to take at conventional times, or ever); they will routinely enquire about ‘social’ opportunities (often failing to realise that home educated children have far more such opportunities in the ‘real world’ than their peer-restricted, and arguably socially excluded, schooled counterparts); and they will possibly seek assurances that the child has access to a suitable place for quiet study (just like at school?!).

Local Authority ‘Consent’

If your child has not attended a state school in the local area, no consent is required from the local authority since it applies only to withdrawal from school. Indeed it is worth emphasising that no parent (who has full parental rights) needs permission to home educate per se.

Parents are not required to seek the consent of the local authority if:

  • their child has never attended a public school
  • their child has never attended a public school in that authority’s area
  • their child is being withdrawn from an independent school
  • their child has finished primary education in one school but has not started secondary education in another
  • the school their child has been attending has closed
  • their child has not attained compulsory education age (which is effectively the school intake date, usually mid-August, following the child’s fifth birthday)

If your child is of compulsory education age and enrolled at a state school, you will need to obtain formal consent to withdraw your child from a state school in order to commence home education (unless specific exceptions apply) and the local authority will recommend the granting or refusal of ‘consent’ based on the education provision you have outlined.

Whether or not you are removing your child from school, you are entitled to receive a copy of the local authority’s report and recommendations.

My child is enrolled at school |  My child is not enrolled at school

Local Authority Contacts

We have linked below to pages containing local authority contact information and comments on council services about home education in Scotland.

Please note that this section is a work in progress and we would appreciate  volunteer input to help us complete the task. All information on council websites should be read in conjunction with Scottish Government home education guidance.

Parents are strongly advised not to rely on information from home education organisations based in England where the law is different.