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Is your child too unwell to attend school, or refusing school? Edit

EOTAS stands for Education Otherwise Than At School, provided by the Local Authority for children who cannot attend school due to ill health, mental health issues, etc. This is different from Elective Home Education (EHE), which is where parents take on full responsibility for their child's education, including organising teaching and learning, qualifications, and paying for everything. Some parents consider elective home education because their child is too unwell to attend school regularly. However, every child of compulsory school age is still entitled to free education provided by the Local Authority (LA) if they are not able to attend school.

"Each local authority shall 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."
- Education Act 1996 S.19 (England and Wales)
Elective Home Education should only ever be a positive choice, although some parents feel forced into it. It is worth fighting for EOTAS provision if you would prefer your child to be at school. You should not have to take on the full financial and organisational responsibility for education because your child cannot attend school.

Why the rest of this site may not be relevant for EOTAS families Edit

The range of qualifications available to EOTAS pupils is different from that available to home educators. There are qualifications which can be hard for home-educators to take, eg GCSE English, because many exam centres won't accept external candidates for the compulsory speaking assessment. In this case, home ed candidates usually take International GCSE English instead. However, if the LA is providing your education then they can arrange for you to take GCSE English with speaking assessment in a local school. Home educated students often take International GCSE sciences, which would not usually be funded by EOTAS provision, but EOTAS students may be able to take regular GCSEs instead as the LA can make arrangements for their pupils to undertake core practicals in schools. Therefore, if the LA is providing you with EOTAS then what you read on this wiki about exam options may not be appropriate for your situation. The same goes for home education support groups on Facebook and email. The advice you are given there will generally assume you have chosen to home educate.

This page is intended to give you a brief overview of EOTAS and then refer you to specialist sources for more information, because EOTAS and Alternative Provision is outside the scope of this wiki.

What does EOTAS / Alternative Provision include? Edit

EOTAS and Alternative Provision varies by area but often includes some of these:

  • Visiting tutors paid for by the LA
  • Online School eg Red Balloon Of The Air, Nisai, or similar.
  • Provision of an exam centre, and exam fees paid by the school or LA
  • Access arrangements for examinations - special provision to support children with additional needs through exams, eg extra time, readers, scribes, smaller exam rooms.
  • Access to qualifications which are normally only available through schools or colleges.
  • Referral to special college programs
  • Hospital Schools, which sometimes take children who aren't actually in hospital.
  • Alternative Provision: Pupil Referral Units or other special educational institutions.

Try doing a web search for the name of your local authority plus "Alternative Provision" or "EOTAS" or "children with medical needs" or "home and hospital tuition". Every LA and every school should have a publicly-available policy on children who cannot attend school due to ill-health.

Government Guidance Edit

Ensuring a good education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs - Statutory guidance for local authorities and departmental advice for others ensuring children with health needs receive education. It applies to all types of school, including Free Schools and Academies.

Some quotes from the guidance:

"LAs are responsible for arranging suitable full-time education for permanently excluded pupils, and for other children who – because of illness or other reasons – would not receive suitable education without such provision. This means that where a child cannot attend school because of health problems, and would not otherwise receive a suitable full-time education, the LA is responsible for arranging provision and must have regard to this guidance." (P3)
"1. LAs are responsible: for arranging suitable full-time education for children of compulsory school age who, because of illness, would not receive suitable education without such provision. This applies whether or not the child is on the roll of a school and whatever the type of school they attend. It applies to children who are pupils in Academies, Free Schools, special schools and independent schools as well as those in maintained schools." (p6)
Alternative Provision - statutory guidance for Local Authorities, schools and governors. This applies to children who are excluded as well as those who cannot attend school because of health needs.

Why might people not accept EOTAS? Edit

Sometimes a child will not meet the LA's criteria for EOTAS. Contact the support groups listed below to help fight your case; it often takes a fight. IPSEA are the experts in helping families get the right support, but do read the Resources section below for other sources.

They may not get provision which works for them Edit

Sometimes EOTAS doesn't work out for families. Perhaps the LA will only agree to a programme leading to a managed return to school.

Often, LAs will only offer 5 hours of home tuition a week. This is the bare legal minimum and there is a good case for arguing for more - see this Mumsnet post, for example. Home tuition may not be workable for your family if a parent has to stay home while the tutor visits. You could argue for an online school if this might suit your family better - you can contact eg Red Balloon or Nisai (contact details in Resources) and they can advise how best to lobby for their provision with your LA.

If the LA is providing the education, they may set targets which your child disagrees with. Some families end up deregistering because they feel the LA makes them jump through hoops to get EOTAS provision. However, with the right support you may be able to get what you need. The organisations in the Resources section below can help you fight your case to get the best support for your child.

It affects your entitlement to benefits once your child turns 16 Edit

Unfortunately, the way the benefits system treats home education post-16 means that this can be a factor for some families.

Parents of children who are electively home-educated are entitled to child benefit payments if the child continues with home education from age 16 onwards, subject to certain conditions. However, this only applies if you were electively home-educated before you finished compulsory school age. If you opt for EOTAS provision, this will usually (but not always) only be provided until the end of compulsory school age, and after that your child will be expected to go to college or get an apprenticeship etc. If your child does not do this then they will be classified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and you will not be entitled to child benefit. If your child does go to college or any form of employment or training recognised as a valid form of participation, then you will retain your entitlement.

This also affects Child Tax Credit, though in slightly different ways.

See Claiming Benefit for Home Educated post-16s on EdYourself for details.

They worry about Alternative Provision and Pupil Referral Units Edit

Sometimes people are offered a place in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) but automatically reject it because they think all PRUs are awful. But PRUs vary a lot; some specialise in children with anxiety and can be great havens which provide a good education away from the stress of mainstream. Others provide innovative education and thoughtful interaction for teens who don't get on well at school. Some are aimed mainly at children with behavioural problems. Some are good, some are bad. Before rejecting the idea of a PRU out of hand, it is worth visiting and seeing what the one you're offered is like. Don't tar them all with the same brush.

Bullying Edit

Sometimes children refuse school because of unresolved bullying issues.

You do not have to simply accept the school's word for it if they say they are dealing with the bullying, but you're not happy. There are procedures for escalating a complaint to governors, the Local Authority and the funding agency.

One of the best resources is Coram's Children's Legal Centre advice on Bullying . Look for the flow-chart on steps to take - you may have to click a drop-down arrow.

Bullying.co.uk has lots of resources, including template letters to send to school governors etc.

Resources for school refusal or poor attendance due to ill health Edit

Note that mental health problems are included in 'ill health'.

Ensuring a good education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs - Statutory guidance for local authorities and departmental advice for others ensuring children with health needs receive education. England and Wales.

Scotland: Guidance for children unable to attend school through illness

'My child is missing school due to ill-health' - Enquire Scotland.

Northern Ireland: Education Outside School

IPSEA helps families with legal and practical advice on how to get SEN support. This could include, for example, an Education, Health and Care Plan specifying EOTAS provision.

Contact: Handling Absence from School. Support for families of children with disabilities, including mental health and illness.

Young Minds: School Refusal. Children's mental health charity. Good overview with suggested approaches and where to go for help.

National Autistic Society - advice when children refuse to attend school, and on how to negotiate support within the system.

Child Law Advice: Supporting Children with Medical Needs In Schools

Child Law Advice: Education for children out of school

Not Fine In School is a support group with lots of useful information, particularly for parents of children refusing school due to anxiety.

PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) Society - advice on applying for an EHCP and options if your child cannot attend school.

Alternative Provision: Effective Practice and Post 16 Transition. Report for the Department for Education by Sue Tate and Dr David Greatbatch.

EdYourself.org Alternative Provision references

Red Balloon provides small centres and online education for children who refuse school because of bullying, anxiety or other issues. You can contact them for advice about how best to approach your LA to request this provision.

Nisai - online education provider for unwell or excluded children.

Local Authority Policies Edit

All LAs and schools should have a policy explaining how they support children with medical needs who cannot attend school. This should say who qualifies for EOTAS support and what they offer locally. Here are some examples:

Bedfordshire, Central

Berkshire, West - Hospital and Home Tuition Service

Bournemouth council

Hillingdon, London - explains who qualifies and what sort of support can be provided.

Oxfordshire - Education of children who are unable to attend school

Swindon - clear website with lots of detail on one local area provision.