Children out of Education
Parent carers should ensure their child attends school regularly, however children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities may have repeated or lengthy absences from school, due to their diagnosis.
There are many reasons for absences. Some can be due to medical reasons, illness, mental health issues, severe anxiety, or repeated hospital visits.
Repeated or lengthy absences from school can be worrying for parents and children and may cause conflict between the family and the school. It is therefore important to keep in regular contact with the school about your child’s circumstances. It is advisable to contact the school in writing (email) of any planned appointments they may have as soon as you know the appointment date and time. It is also good practice to email the school on the first and subsequent days that your child is absent. If you are able to obtain a doctor’s note about your child’s condition (such as anxiety) this may help.
Check how you should report any planned or unplanned absences with your school, for lengthy and repeated absences it is a good idea to keep a record of any correspondence between you and the school.
Your child’s school will keep in contact with you for short absences and will send work home for your child to complete. If they are older and at secondary school, you can encourage them to ask friends or peers for information on the homework that has been set. Possibly school will have an online portal for the young person to log into to get a copy of the lesson plan and the homework that has been set. Some schools also have activities that can be downloaded directly from their school website.
If your child is absent from school for a longer period of time, it can be a good idea to keep in contact with friends, teachers and school by email, zoom, or phone. School websites often list activities and newsletters that can help to make your child feel part of the school culture while they are off school.
If your child or young person is in hospital, they may have the opportunity to attend the hospital school which aims to minimise disruption to their education. Hospital education teams work with children, families, schools and Local Authorities to ensure access to education.
If a child or young persons’ medical condition or SEND prevents them from attending school for a long period of time, then the Local Authority may arrange alternative education and will sometimes ask for a referral letter from a consultant or the child’s school before putting something in place. The team responsible for this is known as Education Access.
You can not be prosecuted or penalised for a genuine medical absence (such as a medical appointment) or if the child or young person is genuinely ill. Schools must authorise the absence in such cases unless there are reasons to doubt the absence. Parent carers should not be obliged to provide medical or doctors notes for every absence but if you do have information that could affect any absences that you can share with your school this will help.
Each school will have their own attendance policy and way they deal with unauthorised absences. Sometimes if attendance drops below a certain percentage, automatic letters are generated and sent home. If you do receive a letter from your school it is a good idea to ask for a copy of your child or young person’s attendance record and check any dates with your own diary of appointments or correspondence to the school. Always try to contact your child or young person’s school as possible to discuss the situation.
Education Otherwise Than at School (EOTAS)
If a child or young person is unable to attend an educational setting the parent may request that their child or young person is Educated Otherwise Than At School (EOTAS). If an EOTAS package is agreed the child or young person will receive their education and special educational provision either at home (e.g. tutoring) or in a lot of cases, within an external setting that is not a registered educational setting.
EOTAS needs to be very specific to the child and their needs and full details of the EOTAS package should be specified in Section F of the EHC Plan.
For more information about EOTAS, please refer to our factsheet.