The Coronavirus Act, which was passed on 26 March 2020 as emergency UK legislation, has enabled the government to make ‘educational closure directions’, whereby some of the legal duties that apply to local authorities have been temporarily suspended.
According to Enquire (as at 14 April 2020):
Whilst the schools are closed, parents’ duties to educate their children and send their children to school are effectively suspended. This means you cannot be prosecuted for failing to send your child to school if their school has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Given that home educators are subject to the same restrictions on accessing educational activities, resources and establishments that have closed or become unavailable due to the pandemic, the parental’ duty to provide education for school-age children ‘by other means’ (including home education) is also effectively suspended.
Local Authorities should meanwhile process withdrawal from school requests as normal since there is nothing to prevent completion of a purely administrative task remotely during the lockdown.
For more detailed information on the emergency coronavirus legislation in relation to children’s education and welfare, please refer to the Enquire website.
Update (14 May 2020)
Iain Nisbet’s latest newsletter helpfully sets out changes to legislation and guidance in Scotland due to the pandemic – Additional Support Needs Update (Issue 7)
Where a direction is in place, any failure to comply with the following duties is to be disregarded (to the extent that the failure is attributable to the direction):
Section 1(1) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (provision of education)
Section 14 of the 1980 Act (education for children unable to attend school)
Section 53(2) of the 1980 Act (free school meals)
Section 30 of the 1980 Act (duty on parents to educate their school-age children)
Section 35 of the 1980 Act (duty to enforce school attendance)
Although schools have been closed to most pupils since the end of March, the Scottish Ministers have not issued an educational closure direction. This means that the legal duties on parents and education authorities remain in place (albeit in a very different context to the one that we are used to).