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: 'Arranging education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs'. On page 8 of the guidance it states “Where specific medical evidence, such as that provided by a medical practitioner, is not readily available, the child’s home school or the local authority should consider liaising with other medical practitioners and consider other evidence to ensure appropriate provision can be arranged as soon as possible. The local authority should review any additional evidence to help them identify the most suitable provision.”

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?

Page 7 of the above guidance says “as soon as it is clear that a child will be away from school for 15 days or more because of their health needs, the local authority should arrange suitable alternative provision. The 15 days may be consecutive or over the course of a school year.”

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). “Full-time education” is not defined in law, but the above guidance says (page 9) that “children with health needs should have provision, where possible, which is equivalent to the education they would receive in a mainstream school.” If a child receives one-to-one tuition the hours could be fewer as the education may be more intensive.

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.