If you missed our recent webinar 'My child is out of school - what can I do?', the recording is still available to watch here – but to help, we’ve also rounded up the top questions asked during the session in this article. 

The majority of the questions received during the webinar were about the duty on local authorities (LAs) under section 19 of the Education Act (EA) 1996 to arrange education for children of compulsory school age who are out of school due to illness (including anxiety).

The questions were mostly in four categories:

  • who is responsible for arranging it?
  • when should it be arranged?
  • what evidence of need is required?
  • what and how much is sufficient? 

Who is responsible?

LAs must [our emphasis] “make arrangements for the provision of suitable education at school or otherwise than at school for those children of compulsory school age who, by reason of illness, exclusion from school or otherwise, may not for any period receive suitable education unless such arrangements are made for them.” (section 19(1) of the EA 1996).

That means if your child’s school is not making arrangements for them to receive a suitable full-time education, your LA is responsible for doing so. 

You should contact the Director of Children's Services at your LA and you can find their details here.

What evidence is required?

LAs should have regard to the statutory guidance entitled: ‘Ensuring a good education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs’. Paragraph 12 says “where specific medical evidence, such as that provided by a medical consultant, is not quickly available, LAs should consider liaising with other medical professionals, such as the child’s GP, and consider looking at other evidence to ensure minimal delay in arranging appropriate provision for the child.” 

Therefore, you should speak to your GP and any other medical professionals involved in your child’s care as soon as possible to obtain evidence of your child’s needs. 

When should it be arranged?

Paragraph 15 of the above guidance says LAs should “arrange provision as soon as it is clear that an absence will last more than 15 days and it should do so at the latest by the sixth day of the absence, aiming to do so by the first day of absence.” 

What and how much?

Suitable education means efficient education suitable to your child’s age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs they may have (section 19(6) of the EA 1996). The education provided must be full-time unless the LA determines that full-time education would not be in your child’s best interests for reasons of their physical or mental health (section 19 (3A) and (3AA) of the EA 1996). The above guidance says “Full-time education” is not defined in law but it should equate to what the pupil would normally have in school – for example, for pupils in Key Stage 4 full-time education in a school would usually be 25 hours a week. 

To find out how to get your LA to arrange education if your child is out of school, see the following pages of our website:

If you have already asked the LA to arrange education and it has refused, or you are unhappy with its response, follow the advice here.