Education Act 1496

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The Education Act 1496 was an act of the Parliament of Scotland (1496 c. 87) that required landowners to send their eldest sons to school to study Latin, arts and law. This made schooling compulsory for the first time in Scotland.

The humanist intent was to ensure that local government lay in competent hands and to improve the administration of justice nationwide by making the legal system more responsive at the local level. The act states:[1]

  • all barons and substantial freeholders shall put their eldest sons and heirs into school from the age of 8 or 9.
  • these shall remain in grammar schools under competent instruction until they have perfect Latin.
  • They shall next spend 3 years at the schools of art and law.
  • the purpose of this education is:
    • that they have knowledge and understanding of the laws, for the benefit of justice throughout the realm.
    • that those who become sheriffs or judges will have the knowledge to do justice.
    • to eliminate the need of the poor to seek redress from the king's principal auditors for each small injury (see Scots Poor Law).
  • anyone who fails to do so without a lawful excuse shall pay the king the sum of £20 Scots.

The act was passed by the Parliament at Edinburgh on 13 June 1496 in the reign of James IV, and in the nineteenth century it remained in effect as one of the principal Statutes for the management of schools under Scots law.[2]

This act is sometimes referred to as the Education Act of 1494, this is due to an error in some editions of the Acts of Parliament where it is listed as 1494 James IV, c. 54.


  1. ^ "The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707". K.M. Brown et al. eds (St Andrews, 2007), 1605/6/39. Retrieved February 15, 2008. 
  2. ^ Barclay, Hugh (1855). A Digest of the Law of Scotland (Second Edition). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. p. 907.