If a child refuses to attend school the Local Authority can impose and enforce an education supervision order (ESO).
Children of compulsory school age should receive full time education and Local Authorities (LAs) have a statutory duty to determine whether education (in school or otherwise) is being provided. If not, an LA can apply and implement education supervision orders (ESOs) to improve a child's poor school attendance. There are consequences of breaching an ESO.
If a parent fails to get their child to regularly attend school, LAs can make reasonable efforts to resolve the problem and have a range of strategies for dealing with poor attendance such as:
Breach by child
- investigating the reasons for the pupil's absence
- meeting with the parent
- sending a written warning to the parents
- completing a Common Assessment Form
- holding a formal Attendance Improvement Meeting with the parents and their child
- or interviewing the parents under caution, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This interview will enable the gathering of evidence for a possible prosecution of parents.
A prosecution should be of last resort although the LA may apply for an ESO at the same time as carrying out a prosecution. An ESO cannot be made where a child is already in the care of a LA.
A court may only make an ESO where it is satisfied that a child of compulsory school age is not being properly educated and it considers that making an order would be better for the child than making no order at all, having given consideration to their age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs.
The court will assume, unless the contrary is proved, that a child is not being properly educated where they are subject to a school attendance order (SAO) that has not been complied with or failing to attend at the school where they are a registered pupil.
When a LA applies for an ESO, they must address and consider a statutory welfare checklist including the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child; the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child; the likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances and whether making an ESO will have a positive effect on the child; age, sex, background of the child that the court considers relevant; and the capability of each of the child's parents to meet their child's needs.
The effect of an ESO is for the court order to appoint the LA to supervise a child's education at school or at home for a specified period, usually a period up to 12 months. The ESO can help where parents find it difficult to exercise control over their child and where the child has developed a pattern of irregular attendance. An ESO does not involve criminal proceedings and is not designed to punish the parents or child. Where an ESO is made, the child can be required to attend a school regularly, allow the supervisors to visit their home and meet on a regular basis.
Appeals against an ESO
Anyone with parental responsibility for the child, or the child themselves, can appeal the decision to make an ESO and the LA have duties and obligations to satisfy a court that it is required to make an ESO.
Breach of an ESOParental breach
A parent of a child who persistently fails to comply with directions given under an ESO is guilty of an offence and can be liable to prosecution. Documentary evidence must be provided for a LA to prove a breach of an ESO. Parents can defend such an action if they can prove that they took all reasonable steps to comply with the direction given, or the direction was unreasonable or impracticable.
Breach by child
Where the child persistently fails to comply with directions given under an ESO, the LA will investigate the child's circumstances and ascertain if added services should be provided. In a serious situation where the child is potentially at risk, the appropriate LA may apply to the family court for a care or supervision order.
- Without prejudice meetings
This article was written by Kerry Hull, an Associate Solicitor in our Alternative Dispute Resolution Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at September 2015.