Teaching your child at home
You have a constitutional right to educate your children at home. If you choose to home-school your child, you do not need a formal teaching qualification. You do not need to follow the national curriculum but you must ensure that your child receives a certain minimum education. You can choose a suitable approach you based on your child's learning needs and appropriate to their age, aptitude and ability.
The Irish constitution recognises the family as the primary educator of the child and defines duties and responsibilities for parents and the State in the education of children. Section 14 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 makes provision for parents to educate their children in places other than recognised schools, such as in the home or in private schools where you do not need to follow a national curriculum.
The Act states that parents must ensure their child receives a certain minimum education.There are detailed Guidelines on the Assessment of Education in places other than recognised schools (pdf). The guidelines provide a working definition of “a certain minimum education”. They describe home-based education and offer guidance on how it may be assessed. They also cover the legal background of home education.
The State has a duty to ensure that children receive a certain minimum education, but parents are free to decide how this education is provided. The law does not define a “certain minimum education”. The guidelines provide a definition of the broad characteristics, which require that a child’s education should:
- Be suited to your child's age, ability, aptitude and personality
- Be responsive to your child’s individual needs, taking account of the areas of learning that your child is interested in
- Ensure that your child's personal potential is enhanced and not suppressed
- Address the immediate and future needs of the child, in the context of the cultural, economic and social environment
- Provide a reasonably balanced range of learning experiences, so that no one aspect of your child’s learning is emphasised to the exclusion of others
- Develop your child's personal and social skills and prepare them to be a responsible citizen
- Contribute to your child's moral development
- Provide opportunities for your child to develop their intellectual capacities and understanding
The guidelines highlight that basic skills that should be taken into account in a definition of this minimum education. Development and progression in oral language, literacy and numeracy are vital for other areas of learning and for the child to participate in society and everyday life. A child would be at a serious disadvantage if their home education programme did not develop these basic skills.
Role of the Child and Family Agency
The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) must maintain a register of children who are receiving education but not attending a recognised school. This register will show the names of children who are being educated at home or in private non-recognised schools. All parents or guardians who want to educate their children at home must register their child with Tusla. Parents of children who attend private non recognised schools should make an application through the school. Registration is not automatic. It is a legal obligation and the onus is on parents or guardians to make an application on behalf of their child.
The registration process
You can apply directly to Tusla – see ‘Where to apply’ below. Tusla will send you an application form and a copy of the guidelines Guidelines on the assessment of education in places other than recognised schools (pdf).
Assessment: when you return the application form you will be contacted by the person who will carry out the assessment to arrange a convenient time and date. This person is authorised by the Tusla and is experienced in education. The assessment will focus on:
- The details of the education that is being provided to the child
- The materials used in the course of the education
- The time spent providing the education
The interview can take place in a venue of your choice and will be based on what you have said in your application. This is called the preliminary assessment. Your assessor will complete a draft assessment report and a copy of this is forwarded to you for comment. Following the report your child’s name will either be entered into the register or your case will be referred for a comprehensive assessment.
If Tusla is not able to decide whether you are providing a minimum education, a comprehensive assessment will be carried out. This is more in-depth and involves the assessor spending some time with you, observing how you teach or work with your child, inspecting your educational materials and talking to your child.
The appeals process
If Tusla decides that you are not providing a certain minimum education for your child, it can refuse to register or remove your child’s name from the register. It must inform you of its decision in writing. You have 21 days to appeal against the decision. The Minister will appoint a committee to hear the appeal and make a decision on the case. An appeal committee is made up of a District Court judge, an inspector and such other person as may be appointed thereto by the Minister. You and the assessor are invited to make submissions on the case. Depending on their decision, the committee will:
- Uphold the decision of the Tusla to remove or refuse to add your child’s name to the register
- Require the Tusla to add your child’s name to the register
- Require the Tusla to add your child’s name to the register, subject to your undertaking to comply with any requirements the appeal committee considers appropriate.
When it comes time to sit formal exams, arrangements can be made through Education and Training Boards (ETBs) or adult education classes. Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations can also be sat at any school by registering with the school in early January of the year that the exams will be taken. Further information is available from the State Examinations Commission.
If a child does not sit State examinations then entry to third-level education in Ireland is difficult. The normal route into Irish third-level institutions is through the Leaving Certificate. However, it may also be possible to enter third-level education at aged 17 or 18 without the Leaving Certificate by interview only. You would need to approach your chosen institution to discuss this possibility. There are a variety of courses for the 16-plus age group which are accepted as valid for entry to third-level courses. You can find out more about further and higher education and training courses from Qualifax - The National Learner's Database.
Home Education Network
If you choose to teach your child at home, the Home Education Network is a support and lobby group for home educators in Ireland. It aims to help parents use the available resources to develop educational techniques suitable for each child’s needs. It also allows for the exchange of ideas and experience among home educators through regular meetings and newsletters. Its website contains links to research and online information about home education and it also operates a library service of books on home education that is available to members.
RatesIf you educate your children at home or in places other than recognised schools you are not entitled to financial support from the State.
How to applyApplication forms and guidelines for inclusion on the register are available from the Tusla - see 'Where to apply'
Where to apply