What is EOTAS?
‘EOTAS’ stands for ‘Education Other Than at School’. As the name suggests, it refers to a situation where a young person cannot attend school in the usual way – either mainstream or a special school – and as a result, is educated in a different way.
This might mean, for example, that a child is taught in a specialist provision attached to a hospital, due to their mental, emotional or physical needs. They may also attend a facility for children who have been excluded due to behavioural challenges. Alternatively, they might be educated at home by their parents or private tutors.
Being educated outside the school environment in this way can be temporary – while a pupil awaits a new school placement, for example – or ongoing. It can also apply to children with or without SEN.
As with many things regarding education, there is a certain amount of bureaucracy to get your head round if you’re considering home-schooling a child with special needs.
Firstly, legally-speaking, there’s a difference between straightforward ‘home-schooling’ and doing so under the umbrella of ‘EOTAS’. If you apply to simply home-school your child, the local authority (LA) will assume that you are taking over complete responsibility for their education and that you will bear the cost. Educating a child at home but specifying it as ‘EOTAS’, on the other hand, means the LA has to continue to monitor and fund this.
Where a child has an EHCP, the LA has a legal responsibility to make sure that the young person receives the treatment or support specified in the plan. This will vary according to the student’s needs and may include things like one-to-one classroom support or speech and language therapy. Ordinarily, the LA pays the young person’s school or college a certain amount of money to provide these services.
More control over the budget
However, where a child with an EHC plan is educated at home via EOTAS, the family can apply to take over this ‘pot’ of money and decide for themselves how to fund the youngster’s education. In order to be considered for this, parents need to request it at the start of an EHC plan or at an annual review.
Getting control of the budget is then a process of negotiation. The LA may not always be able to provide full details of the budget (sometimes it can be difficult to break costs down to an exact amount) but they can also refuse to hand over control of the finances if they feel a family won’t use it in an appropriate way. They may also grant just part of the budget.
Despite these hurdles, gaining access to EOTAS funding can be a fantastic opportunity to personalise your child’s education and support. The money can be used for anything which meets the young person’s mental, emotional or physical needs as specified in the EHC plan.
Many people choose to use part of this budget to hire tutors who have expert knowledge of working with children with SEN.
Working one-to-one with a child allows a tutor to take the time to get to know the student and to guide them at their own pace, away from the constraints of a classroom.
Naturally, this can help reduce a young person’s anxiety – often a major factor in special needs – which, in turn, builds trust. In addition to boosting academic skills, a tutor may also be taken on to teach life skills, taking a child out and about on public transport, for example, or to visit museums or take part in sports.
Freed from having to ‘fit in’ at a school or college, many youngsters reportedly become calmer and happier with such a personalised approach.
Getting an EHC plan or EOTAS funding is a complex however, and it is recommended that parents seek specialist advice.
EOTAS: Education Otherwise than At School
According to the Department for Education, parents or guardians are responsible for ensuring their child receives a full-time education between the ages of five and sixteen.
There are branches of SENDIASS – special educational needs and disability advice and support services – all over the UK.
Find details of your nearest service at www.kids.org.uk.
IPSEA offers legal advice, support and training for families and those who work with kids with special needs.
You can book a one-to-one helpline chat via their website at www.ipsea.org.uk.
Not Fine in School is a community interest company run by parents who, between them, have a wide range of experience with children who can’t or won’t attend school. They offer advice and support to families in similar situations. www.notfineinschool.co.uk.