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The right to education

The right to education is protected by Article 2 Protocol 1 of the Human Rights Act.

Key information

Last updated: 09th November 2022


This right often comes up in:
Children and young people, health, care and social work, learning disability and/or autism and mental health and capacity


Absolute right

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How might this right be relevant to my life?

This right protects our right to an effective education within the UK's existing educational institutions. It relates to primary, secondary, and higher education. Often, Article 2, Protocol 1 is used in conjunction with the right to be free from discrimination (Article 14).

This right means that:

  • Children in the UK have access to an effective education in existing schools/institutions.
  • Religious and philosophical beliefs and principles of parents should be considered.
  • The curriculum set by an education authority, such as the national curriculum, must be objective and factual, meaning that parents or students religious or philosophical beliefs are respected.
  • It prevents the state from denying a person an education rather than creating a right for all children to be educated to secondary level.
  • The duty is on the state and not on any school/institution – for example, if an expelled pupil is able to have access to efficient education somewhere else, there would be no breach of his or her right to education.
  • Any studies that a student has successfully completed must be officially recognised.

This right does not mean:

  • The right to education is not a right to learn whatever a person wants, wherever they want.
  • Parents cannot stop schools teaching subjects such as sex education if they are reasonable things for the school to teach. Parents can remove their children from sex education classes.
  • The right to education does not prevent schools from imposing disciplinary measures on pupils, such as suspension or exclusion. Any such punishment must be lawful, pursued for a legitimate aim, and proportionate/least restrictive. Any pupil that is excluded or suspended, must be provided access to alternative state education.

Can my right to education be restricted by a public official?

Yes... and no!

Part of this right is absolute, which means that the Government must provide access to education for all children in the UK and this cannot be restricted or limited for any reason.


Parts of this right are non-absolute, which means that it can be limited or restricted in certain circumstances. For example, the Government can consider the needs and resources of the community in determining what educational provision is being made available. Resources should be distributed fairly to ensure inclusive education.

Considering parents' beliefs and principles is also non-absolute - meaning that a school does not have to adhere exactly to what the parents wish for as long as this can be objectively and reasonably justified. Challenges to a local authority’s refusal to provide schooling according to the wishes of parents would only succeed if the education was clearly inappropriate for the child or inadequate.

But, like all other non-absolute rights, if the Government (or any public official) is going to limit the right to education, the restriction has to be:


There is a law which allows public officials to take that action or decision.


There is a good reason (for example public safety or protecting the rights of other people, including your family members or staff).


They have thought about other things they could do, but there is no other way to protect you or other people. It is the least restrictive option.


You can ask the public official about their decision or action and ask them to tell you how it was lawful, legitimate and proportionate.

If you can think of a way to deal with this situation or decision that is less restrictive to you then you can raise it with the public official as the decision may not be proportionate.

What duties do public officials have?

To respect your right:

This means public officials (including the government) should not interfere with the right to education, unless it is necessary, and they can show that this is the case.

To protect your right:

This means that the government and people working in public bodies should take ‘reasonable and appropriate’ measures to protect our right to education and include you in decisions that affect your life and education.

To fulfil your right:

This means that when decisions are made about your life you must be treated fairly. When things go wrong, they should be investigated and steps should be taken to try and stop the same thing happening again.