Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

The First Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights

in a nutshell

The European Convention covers civil and political rights. Article 2 of the First Protocol recognises the right to education.

Full text of the Convention (PDF)

Implementation of the Convention

Implementation is ensured through cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights. States must respect the judgments of the Court, and their execution is supervised by the Committee of Ministers. The full texts of judgments are available on the HUDOC website. Summaries of judgments related to inclusive education will soon be available here.

The First Protocol (1952) to the European Convention on Human Rights includes the right to education (article 2):

No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

Implementation of the Convention is ensured through cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights. A number of applications have been made to the Court where parents alleged that the local authority’s segregation of their child in special school against their wishes represents a violation of the right to education under article 2, Protocol 1, and other Convention rights (P. and L.D. v UK, 1989; Connolley v UK, 1989; Graeme v UK, 1990; L. v UK, 1989; Klerks v the Netherlands, 1995; Ford v UK, 1996; D. v UK, 1989). In one case, the parent was not opposed to special schools per se but opposed the authority’s decision to send his child away to residential special school (Northcott v UK, 1989). All of these applications were considered inadmissible. In most cases, in ruling on the inadmissibility of the cases, the question of whether or not the applicants’ opposition to segregated schooling and preference for mainstream schooling amounted to a ‘philosophical conviction’ under article 2, Protocol 1, was left open. However, it is likely that in future cases this may change in light of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Court’s increasing reliance on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as the norm for educational standards.

When the UK ratified the European Convention and the First Protocol, it entered a reservation to the education article, stating that it is accepted ‘only in so far as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure’. The article, with its reservation, has been incorporated into UK law in the Human Rights Act (1998).

Page last updated: Wednesday 18 November 2020

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