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Article 2 Protocol 1 provides:
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the state shall respect the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
Although this Article is incorporated into national law by the Human Rights Act 1998, the United Kingdom has filed a reservation in respect of the Protocol 1 Article 2 which applies to domestic interpretation of the right as well as to this country’s obligations under the Convention at international level. The reservation accepts the principle of education in conformity with parent’s religious and philosophical convictions “only so far as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.
The leading case on Protocol 1 Article 2 is Belgian Linguistic (1968) 1 EHRR 252 in which the European Court of Human Rights stated that the rights protected in that Article are:
- a right to access to educational institutions existing at a given time;
- a right to an effective education;
- a right to official recognition of the studies a student has successfully completed;
However, this right does not impose on States an obligation to establish at their own expense, or to subsidise, education of any particular type or at any particular level. Nor does it entail a right for aliens to remain in the State of entry to take advantage of the local education system: (1) Henry Holub (2) Eva Holub v Secretary of State for the Home Department  1 WLR 1359. Nor does this article impede the power of local education authorities to refuse grants for certain vocational courses (R v Birmingham City Council, ex parte Jacob Youngson (2001) LGR 218).
This right has been invoked by pupils who have been excluded from schools for disruptive behaviour, however these kinds of challenges rarely succeed. Provided schools reserve exclusion for serious cases in which less intrusive measures are inadequate, restrict the removal to as short a period as possible and make sensible efforts to provide alternative educational support, they will not be found by the domestic courts or Strasbourg to be in breach of A2P1: see Ali v United Kingdom (2011) ECHR 17 and Joe Barrett’s discussion of the case here.
It is arguable that parents may claim a right under this Article to start and run a private school: see European Commission of Human Rights decision in Ingrid Jordebo Foundation of Christian Schools Ingrid Jordebo v Sweden (1987) 51 DR 125 and the State may not use its regulatory power to make it impossible to establish private schools.
Finally, it is important to note that the “right” to an education is not a “civil right” to which the fair trial guarantees of Article 6 may apply: see R v Richmond-Upon-Thames London Borough Council ex parte JC (A Child) (2001) LGR 146.