Section 19 of the Education Act 1996 sets out the legal duty for a local authority to provide a suitable full-time education for compulsory school-age children who are unable to attend due to ‘illness, exclusion or otherwise’.
This means that children of compulsory school age have the right to a full-time education unless, due to health needs, it would not be in their best interests.
A part-time timetable must not be treated as a long-term solution. This should only be in place in exceptional circumstances and for a temporary period, with an agreed date for when the reduced timetable will end.
The School Attendance guidance from the Department for Education says:
All pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full-time education. In very exceptional circumstances there may be a need for a temporary part-time timetable to meet a pupil’s individual needs. For example where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full-time education and a part-time timetable is considered as part of a re-integration package. A part-time timetable must not be treated as a long-term solution. Any pastoral support programme or other agreement must have a time limit by which point the pupil is expected to attend full-time or be provided with alternative provision. In agreeing to a part-time timetable a school has agreed to a pupil being absent from school for part of the week or day and therefore must record it as authorised absence. (School Attendance guidance from the Department for Education page 19)
If you are feeling pressured to accept a reduced timetable talk to school about whether there are other appropriate support options, for example…
- a CAF – a way of working with families and assessing needs
- referral to the Specialist Education Services
- the Psychology and Therapeutic Services (for an Educational Psychologist or Inclusion Facilitator)
- to a specialist health service
- for a place at a Pupil Referral Unit
- a request to the local authority to carry out an EHC needs assessment (parents also have the right to make a request directly with the local authority)
- where an EHC plan is already in place, an early review
The term ‘Alternative Provision’ is used to describe the education arrangements for pupils to continue to have a suitable, full-time education whilst they are excluded from school or cannot attend school for illness or another reason, or where directed by schools to off-site provision to improve their behaviour.
Alternative provision can be used where a child has not been excluded, including alongside mainstream or special education, where there are medical needs or for a placement to support them with their behaviour.
See: Suffolk County Council’s, Alternative Provision A guide for parents (opens pdf)
See also our information under fixed-term exclusion.
You can contact the local authority directly with any questions or concerns relating to exclusions and alternative provision: