Registration of independent schools: guidance for applicants, proprietors, and parents

Guidance covering topics topics such as how to register a new independent school or apply to amend the registration of existing independent schools in Scotland.

1. What is an independent school?

An independent school is defined in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (known as "the 1980 Act" in this guidance) as: "a school at which full-time education is provided for pupils of school age (whether or not such education is also provided for pupils under or over that age), not being a public school or a grant-aided school" [1].

This means, effectively, an independent school is one that is not operated by a local authority and is not a grant-aided school (such as Donaldson's School in Linlithgow), providing education for children aged between 5 and 16 on a full-time basis [2].

Where can I get information about independent schools?

All registered independent schools are listed in the public register of independent schools online. The register also lists proposed schools (i.e. schools where an application has been made, but not yet approved).

Must independent schools be registered?

Yes. Operating an independent school in Scotland without registering with the Scottish Ministers is unlawful [3].

Any person seeking to register an independent school (known as the 'applicant') must register their proposed school through the Registrar of Independent Schools before opening their school. This is a process that can take 6 to 9 months depending on circumstances.

Who can open an independent school?

Anyone may apply to register an independent school. However, an applicant must not be barred from regulated work with children and be a member of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups ('PVG') Scheme. The PVG Scheme is discussed in further detail later in this guidance.



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