Child not in school? The A-Z of What You Need to Know: Part 1

Child not in school because of EBSA

If your child is not in school for a prolonged absence it’s easy to find yourself in a murky world of acronyms and new terminology and feel lost not knowing which way to turn. As a teacher in alternative provision I sometimes forget that it can sound like I’m speaking in riddles. Here I try to demystify the common language of education and help you understand the routes and options to consider for your child. If you come across a * after a phrase then it’s been included and explained in my list too.


Used when school staff wish to understand a child’s triggers. ABC stands for Antecedant, Behaviour, Consequence. By observing and reflecting on incidents, staff can explore ways to support a child individually and with their needs in mind.


An ACE is an Adverse Childhood Experience – traumatic or highly stressful event(s) that happen in childhood. Around 9% of children in the UK are said to have experienced 4 or more ACES which are said to raise risks of chronic health conditions, mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. Diagnosed by and EP*, schools will usually support you towards diagnosis for your child by gathering evidence and completing paperwork such as ASNOs. It’s common for girls with Attention Deficit to be overlooked as they quite often do not have the Hyperactivity element and don’t stand out as disruptive in a classroom. Their ADD can also be a considerable barrier to learning.

Alternative Provision:

Services provided to a pupil who is not attending school. These will be put in place either by the local authority or by the school, depending on the reason for your child’s non-attendance. There’s some legal definitions that define where support will come from (PEx* and CME* students will be supported by the local authority whilst students with medical absences will usually be supported by school). Some local authorities devolve arrangements to schools whilst some have a team who organises support.

Alternative Provision can range from courses in animal care, time in a forest school or like us, offer academic support and mentoring.

Annex G:

This is the notice of a permanent exclusion from school. Notices can be given for a one-off incident or for Persistent Disruptive Behaviour*. Once an Annex G has been issued the local authority have 5 days in which to provide an alternative education. There is also an appeal procedure and meetings through school that you will be asked to attend. Most Annex Gs are final although some are reversed if the school has not adequately provided for a special need.


see Alternative Provision


Age Related Expectations. Schools use ARE as a level to judge children’s progress against. Most children in the age group will be working at ARE. Some will be working above this and will be GD (Greater Depth) and some will be working below (WB) or working towards (WT). Schools around the country use different descriptors for their cohorts but in Devon and Cornwall these are the ones generally used.

ASNOs (as-no):

ASNO stands for Always, Sometimes, Never, Often and relate to multiple choice answers on behaviour questionnaires often used by EPs* and SENDCos*. If a specialist is working with your child you may be asked to complete as ASNO (Likert scale) as part of their plan or diagnosis.


It’s a developmental condition that affects the way people interact with, learn from and communicate with others. Autism is said to be on a scale with some people rarely interacting with others and some seemingly unaffected. Many people with autism are said to ‘mask’ (pretend to behave and communicate like neurotypical* people). Masking at school then having meltdowns when a child gets home is very common with autistic children – it’s not ‘bad parenting’!


All behaviour is communication. This is so important that I’m going to say it again. All behaviour is communication. Sometimes a growing child does not have the means to express their emotions or needs and this can be seen in their behaviour. Children rarely show extremes of behaviour because they’re ‘winding you up’ or ‘getting at you’. They are communicating a need that they can’t express and it’s our (adults) jobs to understand and meet the need.

Behaviour Management:

An outdated method for managing behaviour at school that includes a chart to move children in and out of zones or up and down a list. It’s very public and shaming and the cause of much low self-esteem. Many of the children in the ‘bad’ zone are there repeatedly day after day because of undiagnosed conditions or unmet needs, not because they ‘choose’ to misbehave.

CAMHS (cams):

CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Each county or NHS area runs their own CAMHS service. Unfortunately most CAMHS are over-run with referrals and waiting lists for assessment and then again for treatment can be considerable. We’ve heard tales of 12 month plus waits across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset! Find details for local CAMHS in my blog on parenting mental health.


A Child In Need or CIN meeting brings together parents and key professionals from education, social services, mental and physical health who may be working with your child. They help everyone to understand your child’s needs and create a package of services around them.


Child Missing in Education. There’s many reasons for being a CME. Children who move area, SEND children who are waiting to be placed in a special school and children who are not receiving a suitable education are all CME.


The Disclosure and Barring Service is a police checking service for adults working with vulnerable people including children. It’s good practice but not a requirement for tutors and mentors to hold an Enhanced DBS Certificate, so do please check with the adults spending time with your child. Anyone who’s safe will recognise you’re looking after your child’s welfare and won’t mind you asking. All of our tutors and mentors have a recent Enhanced DBS or are on the Update Service (a government system that keeps DBS checks current).

Duty of Care:

All adults working with your child, particularly in education, have a duty of care towards your child. This means they’ll prioritise keeping your child safe and out of danger, know about their medical conditions and look after their wellbeing. Sometimes this is known as Loco Parentis.


EAL is sometimes referred to as ESL or EFL. The terms stand for English as an Addition (Second, Foreign) Language. The term EAL is deemed the more considerate of the three as it recognises a person’s competence in a native language too.

Early Help:

Early Help is the extra support your family can get if you need it. It may be that you want to prevent a problem, or change things for your family before the problem becomes more serious.

It is not a specific service or team, it’s an approach that brings together people from a range of services and teams who will work together with your whole family to help improve the situation for everyone. It can offer support to families from pre-birth to adolescents with all sorts of issues from parenting, employment and school attendance to emotional wellbeing or anti-social behaviour. Any adult who supports your family can point you towards Early Help.


Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties is a broad term used to describe a child’s difficulties when a diagnosis has not been sought or reached. It’s not seen as a special need in many cases, so would not necessarily warrant extra support at school. See Behaviour* too.


EBSA and EBSNA are new terms on the block, so much so that no one has particularly decided what to call it at the moment. EBSA stands for Emotionally Based School Avoidance and EBSNA stands for Emotionally Based School Non-Attendance. Whatever we call it, EBSA/ EBSNA refers to a child not in school because of anxiety. This could be related to school or social anxiety. A child with EBSA needs support in their education which is often out of school tuition, mentoring and a carefully created plan that can support them back into education.

Education Keyworker:

An education keyworker will work with a child who has a record of persistent absence or disruptive behaviour as an intervention. Many schools and local authorities will use an education keyworker as the first port of call when working with a child. They will support the family to find solutions for your child.


This is an Education Health Care Plan. They’re a little like the Holy Grail – lots of parents searching for one and very few found! An EHCP is the modern form of a statement of special need. Once your child has an EHCP it can open doors to special school places, extra support and funding. The UK as a whole has a record and growing number of EHCPs granted or in progress and the process to get one can be long and drawn out over many months.

If you think your child has a special need and may need an EHCP you can start the process yourself with your local authority, ask school to start the process or ask through your GP. I’d also advise collecting as much information and evidence on your child’s needs as possible. Writing down and dating anecdotes of their behaviours can be useful.

Elective Home Education:

Sometimes known as EHE, home edders or home schooling, Elective Home Education refers to families who have opted to withdraw their children from the state education system and educate them at home, either by themselves or through tutors or home edder groups. If you wish to home educate you’ll need to write to your school’s headteacher informing them of your wishes. BEWARE! If you do choose this route you will no longer be entitled to any state school funding for your child – you’ll need to pay for resources, any tutor sessions, exam fees and any extras relating to your child’s education. If you do take your child out of school by EHE the school will no longer provide any resources.

EHE must be well thought out before you take the leap and it does need to be wholly your family’s decision – schools are legally not allowed to suggest home ed as route for your child or influence your choice. Saying this, there are many, many families successfully home edding and many local home ed communities too. Find a local group and chat with parents about their experiences to find out whether it’s right for your family or whether an AP*, Flexi-schooling* or EOTAS* route could work for you.

EOTAS: (ee-oh-tas)

Education Other Than At School packages are offered by schools or local authorities in just a few child not in school cases. If you wish to pursue this route prepare for many meetings with school or the local authority and for other reintegration packages or special school offers to be the first options. Having medical evidence is usually needed for an EOTAS package to be put in place and GP evidence is usually a good start – evidence from a specialist such as a consultant or EP/ CAMHS will support your case further, but here many parents get caught in the trap of waiting lists for specialist referrals.

In our experience the parents who’ve gained an EOTAS package for their child not in school are the ones who’ve armed themselves with lots of knowledge and spent lots of time in meetings raising the concerns they have for their child.


Sometimes called Ed Psych too, this is the professional who will assess any neurodiversity or mental health difficulties that your child may be experiencing. EPs often work in schools as a buy-in service from local authorities or academy chains. There’s a shortage of EPs across the country which seems to be even more prominent in Devon and Cornwall at the moment, which, of course, means there’s a waiting list to see one.

EWO (e-woe):

An EWO is an Education Welfare Officer. Most parents first come across an EWO through the absence process (letters and fines) from the local authority which can often set the relationship off to a bad start. EWOs can actually be a great source of help for your family too so please don’t dismiss them. An EWO is employed by the local authority and works to engage your child in education. In some counties, the EWO would be responsible for placing your child into Alternative Provision, particularly if your child is PEx*.

An EWO is also responsible for the welfare of children in EHE*, which can be a cause of stress for parents who are home educating as they’re often thought to be checking up on the parents or making an Ofsted-type inspection. The reality is that EWOs know that most parents are doing a fantastic job of home education. With tragic cases such as Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Dylan Freeman frequently hitting the headlines, EWO home visits are really an opportunity to support some of our most vulnerable children forgotten by ‘the system’. Who wouldn’t want to play their part in that?


There’s two types of exclusion:  a suspension, which is sometimes called a fixed term exclusion and a permanent exclusion which is sometimes called PEx*. Some of our local children refer to this as being permed. There are laws about how schools are allowed to exclude students. Suspensions or fixed term exclusions can be for a maximum number of 45 days within a school year. If a fixed term exclusion is longer than 5 days then the school must provide work for your child.

Permanent exclusions can happen for a one-off, serious breach of school rules (usually related to violence or substance misuse) or a collection of breaches often referred to on exclusion notices as Persistent Disruptive Behaviour*. If your child has been permanently excluded from a school then the local authority have responsibility for your child’s education and are obligated to provide their education within 15 days. You can find out more about the rules through this government website.

Five/ Fifteen Day Rule:

The five day rule refers to the number of days a local authority has to provide education for your child if they have been permanently excluded from school. The fifteen day rule refers to the number of days a local authority has to provide education for your child if they are classed as a persistent absence* and not attending school.


Flexi-schooling is not a legal right in the UK but is offered by some schools. Your child can be registered with a school as a full-time student but some of their education can take place off-site. This kind of schooling can work well for children with medical issues, school attendance difficulties (SAD*) or where you are considering a move to home-education.


Also see PP*. FSM stands for Free School Meals. Usually around January, schools send out invites to register for Free School Meals. This is different to the free meals offered for children in Key Stage 1 and relates to an income threshold under which your children will be entitled to a free meal each day at school. If your child is entitled to FSM it opens up extra funding opportunities for the school and educational opportunities for your child. FSM as a code is often referred to as PP or Pupil Premium these days – a term that encompasses a wider group of students.


Yes, we’re talking about education here, but your GP can be a huge advocate for your child, particularly if you have a child not in school for anxiety, social phobias or mental health difficulties, or if you think your child shows signs of neurodiversity* and want to pursue a diagnosis for them. Schools and local authorities often ask for evidence from your GP if your child is not in school for a length of time, so do speak with them and make a record of your concerns.


IEPs used to be part of the statutory SEND* Code of Practice for a child with special needs but these days it’s up to schools whether to have them and what to call them. IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. Some schools still use them, some have replaced them with Personal Learning Plans (PLP). Whatever we call the paperwork, it can be a useful tool for planning and reviewing a child’s needs, particularly for those who need some extra support to make school work for them.


Schools and teachers think about inclusion (I hope) as a way to make sure that all children’s needs are met within their classroom and teaching. Primary teachers tend to differentiate most of their teaching and resources, particularly in Maths and English but it’s less common for differentiation to happen in some secondary schools. We think it should always happen!

When thinking about inclusion in a classroom there’s lots of things to consider: culture, gender, race, religion, special needs, disability, things like dyslexia or dyscalculia, neurodiversity, medical and dietary needs… I could go on. The important thing about being inclusive is that the school and the teacher have considered each child and provided the best environment and resources to enable their learning.

KS1/ KS2/ KS3/ KS4:

KS stands for Key Stage. Key Stages are split into year groups. KS1 is the infant years 1 and 2, KS2 covers ‘Junior’ school years and is years 3 up to 6. KS3 starts on transfer to secondary school and is years 7, 8 and 9 and KS4 covers exam years 10 and 11.


LA stands for Local Authority. If your child is not in school through exclusion they may be on roll with your local authority. In some counties, such as Devon, your local authority may work with the school to provide education if your child is not in school for medical reasons too. Some local authorities (Somerset, Bristol) hold an approved suppliers list but devolve responsibility for finding other suitable education to your child’s registered school.


This stands for Looked After Child and is used when a child is in the care of the local authority. All LAC children should also be on roll with the Virtual School* and have a PEP* provided for them.


A mentor will work with your child to help them navigate social and school situations that they find tricky. Mentors might support your child through coregulation, helping them identify their own feelings and emotions, finding coping strategies and learning how to learn. Children who work with our mentors find a great sense of empowerment and confidence and are more willing to express their feelings and their needs.


Children with special needs and their schools are often classed as having or providing for MLD, SLD or PLD. It stands for Mild, Severe or Profound Learning Difficulties. We like MENCAP’s explanation of Learning Difficulties as they explain it’s not one size fits all.


A NEET is a post-16 student who is Not in Education, Employment or Training. It’s a government classification that opens up support for a student in this position. We like to work with our Year 11 students to find the next part of their journey through life. Our support finding them work experience or exploring post-16 courses helps them find their place in the world.


This is a term that covers a group of conditions that affect how the brain grows which can influence how we communicate, learn and interact with the world. Conditions that fall within the neurodiversity banner include ADHD, ASD, PDA, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia. 15-20%, or around 1 in 7 of the population in the UK is neurodivergent.


The opposite of neurodivergence/ neurodiversity.

0-25 Team:

Each local authority will have a specialist team ready to support children and young people with SEND needs. The 0-25 team typically assess, review and maintain EHCPs* for children within their local authority.

I’ve ended up with so many terms to demystify that I’m splitting the blog into two parts. If your child is not in school be sure to read Part 2 as well where I’ll cover more routes, options and terminology to look out for.