Click to download: Asking the LA to provide alternative education for children out of school due to permanent exclusion (model letter 22a)

Click to download: Asking the LA to provide alternative education for children who are unable to attend school (model letter 22b)

Click to download: Asking the LA to provide alternative education for children who do not have a school place (model letter 22c)

When should my local authority provide alternative education?

If your child is of compulsory school age but is not receiving education because:

  • illness is preventing them from being able to attend school
  • they have been permanently excluded from school, or
  • for any other reason

then under section 19 of the Education Act 1996, your local authority (LA) has a legal duty to secure suitable, full-time alternative education for them.

This education must be full-time unless a reduced level of education would be in your child’s best interests because of their physical or mental health.

It must also be suitable for your child’s age, ability, aptitude, and special educational needs (SEN).

You can request for your LA to provide alternative education, using these model letters to help you. You should use the letter template which reflects the reason your child is out of school.

The date by which the LA will have to provide full-time education for your child will depend on the reason they are unable to attend school.

Model letter 22a should be used if your child is out of school because they have been permanently excluded.

Education must be provided from the sixth school day after the exclusion. Please note that for fixed term exclusions/suspensions of more than five school days, it is your child’s school (not the LA) that must provide the suitable, alternative education.

Model letter 22b should be used if your child is out of school because they are unable to attend at present. This could be because of health needs such as illness or anxiety, or for any other reason they are unable to attend.

Education must be provided as soon as it is clear that your child will be away from school for 15 days or more (whether these days have occurred one after the other, or at separate points over the school year), and at the latest by the sixth day of the absence.

If you have concerns about whether a child or young person should be learning in person or remotely, for reasons relating to their or a family member’s clinically extreme vulnerability, you should discuss this as soon as possible with the medical professionals involved and the setting.

Model letter 22c should be used if your child is out of school because they do not have a school place.

For children with no school place, education must be provided immediately.

Your request will be strengthened if you can send evidence in support of it. This could include a letter from the head teacher confirming a permanent exclusion, or confirmation of the health issues preventing your child from being able to attend school, such as a letter from your child’s GP or other medical or mental health practitioner. Medical evidence could also include appointment cards, prescriptions, or notes of previous consultations, including from the NHS App.

You should also include details of your child’s SEN and the provision that will be required in order for the alternative education provision to be suitable. If your child is receiving SEN support, their school should have been keeping records of the support in place for them, so you can attach these with your request if you have copies. If you do not have copies, you can set out your child’s special educational needs and the required provision within your request.

If your child has an EHC Plan, you should attach a copy of this with your request. You should also be aware that the LA must ensure the special educational provision set out in your child’s EHC plan continues to be delivered while they are out of school, under section 42, Children and Families Act 2014.

If you need further evidence which could be provided by your child’s school (such as SEN Support plans, their attendance record, or disciplinary record), you can make a request to the school for a copy of your child's education record.

Keep a copy of your letter so that you have a record of your contact with the LA. 

Who should I write to?

You should write to your home LA even if your child is registered at a school in a different LA.

You should write to the most senior person at the LA, usually called the Director of Children’s Services. You can find the contact details for the Director of Children's Services at each LA here. 

What happens next?

There is no set deadline for the LA to respond to your request, but it should do so as soon as possible, taking into account the timescales outlined above.

If you do not get a reply to your request after five working days, or if you need further advice, you can book an advice line appointment with IPSEA. 

Complaints

If despite a request to do so, the LA does not make any suitable arrangements for alternative education for a child who cannot attend school, it will be in breach of its legal duties and you could consider making a complaint

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued a report explaining the duty to provide alternative education.

Free school meals

If your child would ordinarily receive free school meals and is not receiving them now, or you are not sure if they are eligible, you may find these resources produced by Contact helpful.