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Home Education in the Republic of Ireland

by Kim Pierce, Home Education Network

Click here if you are looking for information on the Home Tuition Scheme 2016/17

Many people are unaware of it, but home education is a legal and constitutional right. Article 42 of the Constitution has the following to say:

1. The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.

2. 2. Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.

3. 3.1 The state shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or in any particular type of school designated by the State.

4. 3.2 The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.

5. 4. The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.

6. 5. In exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, the State as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.

Who can home educate?

Anyone can home educate their children. There is no requirement for you to have a third level qualification, a teaching qualification or even the Leaving Cert. You do not need a curriculum, formal lessons or a designated school room. You do need an interest in your children's education and a commitment of time and energy. Home educators come from all walks of life and have a variety of reasons for choosing this option. One of the problems that parents thinking about home education often encounter is a lack of confidence in their own abilities to home educate their own children. This disappears after a few weeks or months when they see their children becoming happier and enjoying learning.

How does home education work in practice?

Some families make a formal arrangement about hours and curriculum, centered around their child’s interests. Many others have an inforal approach with no set curriculum. Families are free to follow the national curriculum, devise one of their own, or not follow a curriculum at all. Most families will use a combination of formal and less formal approaches, often moving to a more informal system. The experience of home education is very different from school-based education.

The amount that children learn without being taught is surprising to some but gratifying to all involved. It may help to take a long term view by realising that, although the "average child" may learn to read at, say, six, some children will not learn to read until much later. There is no evidence that these late readers are any less keen on reading when they see that it is useful to them.

Approaches may change over time and can be different with different children, even within the same family. New home educators, particularly those that have withdrawn their children from school, may follow a more structured approach. Some parents like to see their children producing some concrete work as it gives them confidence that they are actually learning something. Others may be comfortable following a less structured, less school like approach.

Probably the best route is to find an approach that both parent and child are happy with, with the onus on the parent giving a large part of the decision making to the child. A good rule of thumb is ‘are your children happy’?. If they’re not, then you need to look at your approach and see how it could be changed. You have the freedom for both you and your child to try various approaches and see which one suits you all best.

What about exams and other forms of assessment?

Parents who are with their children every day do not need to see exam results to monitor their child's progress, strengths or weaknesses. Exams measure only a small part of the skills that children need to acquire as they grow up. Self-esteem, social competence, emotional security, happiness and physical development are not easily monitored, let alone improved by examinations. When/if it comes time to sit formal exams like the Leaving Certificate or O and A levels, arrangements can be made through V.E.C.s, Adult Education Classes or the Dublin Tutorial Centre (, Tel 01 6612209).

Junior and Leaving Cert can also be sat at any school by registering with the school in early January of the year that the exams will be taken. More information can be seen at A levels can also be taken through the National Extension College in the UK, email website Another option is the Wolsey Hall Oxford which also supports home study of GCSEs and A Levels.

Nuala Jackson runs an alternative school that provides junior and leaving cert. She can be contacted on 051 383426 (evenings) or on her website at . Her and her son Eoin Jackson now have a distance learning programme specifically for home educated children wishing to take Leaving Cert. Eoin can be contacted at , or on 086 8594577.
Please note that it is not a legal requirement to sit either Junior or Leaving Cert.

Third Level Education

Home educators have successfully gone to college or university. Currently the route into Irish third level institutions is normally through Leaving Cert. However, mature students (23 and over) are not subject to the usual entry requirements. There are also a growing number of correspondence courses on offer, perhaps the best known is the Open University. The National Association of Adult Education, webpage is a useful source of information on distance learning in Ireland.

Their general telephone number is 01 406 8227.

It may also be possible to enter third level at 17/18 without Leaving Cert, by interview and portfolio only. This will depend on the open mindedness of the institution concerned. You would need to approach your chosen institution to discuss this possibility.

FETAC, the Further Education and Training Awards Council, can be seen at , Tel; 01 865 9500.They offer a variety of courses for the 16+ age group which are accepted as valid for entry to third level courses.

What about social interaction?

‘Socialisation’ is something that home educator’s are often asked about. There appears to be the belief that children can only be ‘socialised’ in school. All children, whether home educated or not, mix with their brothers, sisters, neighbours, friends and relations. Many of them participate in community and sports activities. Many of them take part in group activities - music, dancing, sports, clubs - outside the home.

There is no evidence that home educated children lack positive social experiences and there is some evidence that they avoid some negative social experiences. They are not subject to the kind of peer pressure, or the pressure to conform and be obedient that children in school are subject to. Considering the amount of time that home educated children spend out in the wide world mixing with a variety of different people of differing ages it is clear that their social experience and hence social skills are at least as well developed as those of their school educated peers.

The Home Education Network

The Home Education Network was established in 1998 and is a support and lobby group for home educators. We publish a quarterly newsletter, have a network of Regional Contacts and have an annual conference, at which home educators from all over the country have a chance to meet each other. We are non-denominational and welcome people from all walks of life.

If you would like further information, please contact Kim Pierce, Tel: 061 923023, email
The HEN Social Network Site can be found on

Registering for Home Education

Under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is charged with ensuring that every child receives an education and as part of this remit it must ensure the registration of children who receive their education through home settings. This requirement exists in order to support parents in their right to home educate and to safeguard a child's right to a minimum education.

If you decide to educate your child at home, you must register with the NEWB. The Board will then carry out an assessment of the education being provided. Contact the NEWB on 01 8738736 for further information.

Click here if you are looking for information on the Home Tuition Scheme 2016/17

As of Saturday, August 28, 2010, there is a new and focused Irish home-ed representative group, called Irish Core Home Education Support Services, or I-CHESS.
 I-CHESS was launched after the AGM of the Home Education Network (HEN) Annual Conference, held in the Scout Centre, Mount Melleray, Co. Waterford.
Almost all of I-CHESS's founding members were, and continue to be, HEN members. They see a clear need for a new and powerful focus of attention and activity in the political, legislative and lobbying arenas, and I-CHESS is the vehicle that has emerged as fashioned specifically for that purpose.
The I-CHESS Group can be accessed via the HEN Social Network Site, just by logging on to the HEN site, and then logging into the "Network" area.
Background and other information about I-CHESS can be accessed by clicking on "Groups" or on "Mag" in the HEN website.