Case overview

The child in this case was unable to attend school due to ill health. Her local authority provided her, under the previous applicable law, with five hours of home tuition per week. Her LA then decided to reduce these hours due to financial constraints. 

The Court said this was unlawful. When an LA is under a duty to provide alternative education for those who cannot attend school due to ill-health then it must do so. The provision of suitable education to children who are ill is not an area in which discretion can be exercised. This includes in relation to budget constraints. 

What does this mean?

Section 19 of the Education Act 1996, the current law, says that every LA must put in place suitable education arrangements at school or otherwise for children of compulsory school age who, for any reason, will be without suitable education unless these arrangements are put in place for them.

This duty can apply to those not able to attend school due to illness or exclusion, or for any other reason.

The education provided by the LA must be:

  • full-time. It can only ever be part-time if that is in your child's best interests due to their physical or mental health needs, and
  • suitable to your child’s age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs they may have.

This means LAs are under an absolute duty to provide suitable, full-time education for children who are out of school due to illness, exclusion or otherwise. LAs cannot choose not to provide this support, and they cannot use arguments of lack of resources to justify a failure to do so.

The full case report for R v East Sussex County Council, Ex p Tandy / In re T (A Minor) [1998] 2 WLR 884 can be viewed online.

For more information see our sections on exclusion from school and what your LA should do to help.