Alternative Provision/Education

All children, regardless of SEND, have a right to a full-time, suitable and accessible education within law. However, for some children, attending an education setting can be difficult and challenging, but there is support available for them.

For children who are of compulsory school age (age 5-16), alternative provision/education can be arranged for them by their school or the Local Authority if they, because of illness, exclusion or other reasons, would not receive a suitable education unless it was provided for them. This entitlement to education comes from The Education Act (1996), section 19 and under this legislation, children’s access to alternative provision/education can be made as the Local Authority have a duty to do so. This duty applies to all children, regardless of if they have an EHCP.

The alternative provision/education which is provided must be full-time and suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude and must take account of their SEND needs. If full-time is not suitable, due to difficulties with the child’s physical or mental health, then a reduced level of education would be appropriate.

Asking school for help

There are some changes which school can make which may be beneficial to a child who is finding attending difficult and these changes should always be explored fully before requesting that the Local Authority intervene. Examples of support which school can offer:

  • Talk to the child away from the distractions of the classroom/peers and ask then to explain, in their own words, how school could help them and what the help looks like – this could be something like changing seats or leaving class 5 minutes before everyone else to avoid noise in the corridors
  • Speak to the child’s parent/carer to see if there are any external influences which school need to be aware of such as a bereavement, a change to family life or a relationship breakdown etc
  • Review the child’s SEND support plan to ensure that the current support is correct and suitable – if the support isn’t working, school need to know why so they can change it
  • Explore reasonable adjustments and SEND support such as access to fidget toys, timeout passes, access to pastoral team
  • Changes to timetables, such as part-time timetables, twilight school sessions or work packs sent home
  • Arranging for children to attend alternative provisions which are either based within school (such as a nurture unit) or based off site such as at another provision/assessment hub/home or hospital (depending upon the child’s individual circumstances)


If the changes and adaptions school have put in place are not working or are not suitable, then parents/carers can ask the Local Authority to arrange the child’s education for them. Accessing this form of provision does not mean removing a child from the school roll, it means that the provision which they go on to access will share the responsibility for that child’s education with their original setting (known as home school) and the two providers will work together to ensure that the children they have are provided with the most suitable education they are able to access according to their individual circumstances.

To request that alternative provision/education is provided for a child, a letter of request can be sent directly from parents/carers to the Local Authority. These letters are usually addressed to the Directory of Children’s Services as they have the overall responsibility for education within their area, however, they may not be the ones to directly reply.

For further information around requesting this alternative provision/education from the Local Authority, please see below:

IPSEA – arranging alternative provision/education


Sunderland’s Local Authority have produced an alternative provision directory, click here to read and download it.

Accessing some of the alternative provision/education which is available for children within Sunderland must be requested via an application to the Vulnerable Pupils Panel, also known as ‘VPP’. The panel meets every 2 weeks and applications are requested to be submitted a week prior to the panel meeting to ensure all necessary information is available for the panel to consider.  It is the school’s responsibility to submit an application, or in terms of hospital tuition, the medical consultant’s responsibility.

For more information around what is required and how an application is made, please see below:

The Vulnerable Pupils Panel (VPP)

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