Providing access to effective education

New law in force

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.

The right to education is a fundamental human right. Local authority education departments (or education authorities in Scotland) are required by law to ensure that free education is available for all children of compulsory school age (currently five to 16 year-olds) living in their area. The education provided should be appropriate to their age, abilities, aptitudes and any special educational needs that they might have.

School places must also be available in the area for all young people aged 16 to 18 who want one. In England, sixth form college places should also be available to those aged 16 to 19. This applies not only to people who have grown up in the area, but also any young person who is living in the area for long enough to attend school, such as:

  • children who have a parent in the armed forces
  • children who have come from abroad, and
  • Gypsy and Traveller children (including those who are living on temporary sites).

Under recent government proposals, the law in England and Wales may soon change to require young people to stay in education or training until the age of 18. If this happens, there will be additional responsibilities for local authority education departments or education authorities to make sure that sufficient provision is available. These proposals are still under discussion and any changes to the law won’t happen for a few years.

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