Why Are School Absences Higher For Children With Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

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The Law Of… supporting children with SEN at school

Statistics produced by the Department for Education for 2015/16 show persistent absence rates are 3 times higher for pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a Statement of SEN (SSEN).

Samantha Hale, Associate Solicitor in Education and Community Care, explores why this is happening and what you can do if your child is persistently absent from school.


What Do The Statistics Tell Us?

Looking at the data, a troubling trend emerges:

  • Students with an EHCP or SSEN had an overall absence rate of 7.7% compared to 4.2% for students who didn't have any identified special educational needs
  • 6% of students with an EHCP or SSEN were persistent absentees, which is 3 times higher than students who weren't identified as having special educational needs

Why Is The Figure Higher For Children With An EHCP Or Statement Of SEN?

Although the report doesn't explain why there is such a big difference in the figures, there are two possible reasons behind this:

  1. These children have been placed in schools that are unable to meet their needs
  2. They haven't been given adequate provisions by the school to meet their needs

This can have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing and can cause them to be persistently absent from school.

What Can I Do If My Child Is Persistently Absent Because Their Needs Aren't Being Met By The School?

If your child has an EHCP or a Statement of SEN you could call an urgent Annual Review and raise your concerns. It might be possible to resolve the matter with additional provisions being put in place or the Local Authority changing the school placement.

"But, I know that this is often not the case", Samantha explains, "and that parents will need to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) to try and obtain additional provisions or a change of school placement, which will enable their child to attend school regularly."

This can be time-consuming, particularly if you do not have a right to appeal as you will need to obtain this, and stressful to manage alone. We're experienced in supporting parents throughout all stages of SEND appeals, and can help alleviate some of the pressure involved with the process.

If you want to find out whether you can make an appeal or need some advice, get in touch with one of our Education Law experts.

What Can I Do Whilst I Am Waiting To Appeal?

If your child can't attend school due to the impact it has on their health and wellbeing or because they have other medical needs preventing them from attending, it's important for you to get medical evidence that confirms this.

This is necessary in order to protect you against potential non-attendance proceedings and to help you obtain an alternative provision of education until your child is able to attend school.

For some children, this will mean waiting until the outcome of a Tribunal appeal.

My Local Authority Has Refused To Give My Child An Alternative Provision Of Education – Can It Do This?

If your child is unable to attend school for medical reasons, the Local Authority has a legal duty to provide them with an alternative provision of education.

Your Local Authority is likely to ask for medical evidence demonstrating that your child is unable to attend school.

"Even when this is provided by parents, I know that they often struggle to get any provision of education from the Local Authority", Samantha says.  

"That's why it's important for you to seek legal advice if you find yourself in this situation."

How Much Support Should My Local Authority Offer My Child?

If a child is medically unable to attend school, the Local Authority should provide them with full-time education, unless they are unable to manage it.  

There is no legal definition of how many hours of full-time education are required, but a report from the Local Government Ombudsman recommends the following:

  • Reception and Years 1 – 2 (children aged 5 – 7): 21 hours
  • Years 3 – 6 (children aged 7 – 11): 23.5 hours
  • Years 7 – 10 (children aged 11 – 15): 24 hours
  • Year 11 (children aged 15 – 16): 25 hours

I Am Still Experiencing Difficulties With My Local Authority – How Can Simpson Millar Help Me?

If your Local Authority doesn't provide a provision of alternative education or if it isn't providing enough support, we can help you take legal action.

"Our Education Law team can assist you with any appeal to the Tribunal and in obtaining a right of appeal if you do not have one", Samantha explains.

"We can also provide advice on non-attendance proceedings, if your Local Authority is pursuing this."



To find out how we could help you please make a no-obligation enquiry or call freephone: 0808 129 3320.




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