Reduced Timetables: Advice for parents

A timetable is considered reduced when the total hours provided for your child are less than those provided to the majority of their peers in school. We would not ordinarily expect a parent to request a reduced timetable, they are generally one of a range of strategies that a school’s leaders may consider.

They should only be implemented as a temporary measure and with parental agreement, otherwise they could be seen as an unofficial exclusion which is unlawful. Whilst on a reduced timetable your child’s absence from school will be recorded as authorised absence for the sessions they are not required to be in school.

Southampton City Council has produced local guidance for our schools and expects the best practice it contains to be followed and children returned to full time education as quickly as possible. As part of our process you should be asked to discuss, agree and sign a Reduced Timetable Proforma and a Risk Assessment by your child’s school before a reduced timetable can be implemented. Any reduction should always be made in the child’s best interests.

What does the law say?

  • All children of compulsory school age have a right to receive full-time education
  • Every school has a legal responsibility to provide full-time education for all of its pupils
  • Parents/carers must ensure that their children of compulsory school age, who are registered at school, attend regularly
  • Local authorities have a duty to ensure that children receive a full-time education

What is full-time education?

Whilst there is no legal definition of full-time, the following Local Government Ombudsman definition of the number of teaching hours that constitutes full-time education is widely accepted:

  • Key stage 1: 21 hours
  • Key Stage 2: 23.5 hours
  • Key Stage 3 & Year 10: 24 hours
  • Year 11: 25 hours

When might a reduced timetable be used?

The use of a reduced timetable for your child should be an exceptional measure, but may be considered appropriate and in the best interests of an individual child in the following circumstances:

  • As part of a planned reintegration approach for children who have not attended school for a period of time due to illness, disability, mental health issues, family circumstances, post-exclusion etc.
  • As part of an in-school support package. School, parent/carer and other professionals agree that a short-term reduced timetable would support a child who has become disaffected to regain success
  • For medical reasons when a child has a serious medical condition where recovery is the priority outcome

What do schools have to do?

  • They must seek your agreement before your child attends on a reduced timetable
  • They must review the arrangement regularly
  • They must provide appropriate work for your child to complete at home
  • They must involve you in their regular reviews of the arrangement and seek your agreement at each stage
  • They must have carried out a Risk Assessment before implementation
  • They should ensure that clearly defined objectives are in place, a specified end date, a review process and the consent of parents/carers

What are my responsibilities as a parent/carer?

You are responsible for:

  • Ensuring the safety and well-being of your child during the times they are not in school
  • Ensuring that work set by the school is completed and returned
  • Supporting your child and the school to address issues, working towards full-time provision

What is the position of the Department for Education?

The 2020 DfE 'School attendance Guidance for maintained schools, academies, independent schools and local authorities' states that all pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full-time education but acknowledges that, in very exceptional circumstances, there may be a need for a temporary part-time timetable to meet a pupil’s individual needs.

What if my child has an Education, Health & Care Plan?

If a school is considering reducing the timetable of your child and they have an EHCP the SEN Case Officer must be consulted and invited to an early annual review. The SEN Case Officer will expect to see a clear benefit to your child and a carefully planned transition to a full time timetable.

What if I am not happy with the reduced timetable?

If you do not believe that a reduced timetable will support your child we would recommend that you ask your child’s school:

  • To outline their reasons for proposing this strategy
  • To outline what difficulties your child has that prevents the school from allowing your child to stay for the whole day along with their peers
  • What measures\strategies are in place, or have been tried, to support your child
  • What plans are in place to ensure that your child’s needs are being met and are they being adhered to
  • Whether they are proposing to reduce your child’s timetable for a set length of time or indefinitely
  • If there is a plan in place to increase the hours and have a phased return to a full day and what the triggers for these increases will be
  • Whether your child be in school with their own class and teacher during the sessions in school
  • What support you can provide to help your child return to full-time provision
  • Whether an early annual review is needed if your child has an EHCP
  • If your child does not have an EHCP whether a statutory assessment of your child’s needs is required
  • Whether a reduced timetable will impact on public examinations, either linked to actually sitting the exam or completing the coursework or curriculum needed to be successful

If you refuse to agree to implementation, a full-time timetable should remain in place. In these circumstances you should work with the school to explore other options and any professionals or agencies involved should be consulted.

Schools are not allowed to unofficially exclude pupils so if your child is not allowed on the school site when they are not excluded, you should raise your concerns with the school in the first instance but, if your child is still not allowed to return, you should then follow the formal school complaints procedure.

What if my child has been on a reduced timetable for a long time?

If your child has been on a reduced timetable for a long time and you are unhappy with this arrangement, we would recommend that you ask for a meeting with your child’s school to discuss:

  • Your child’s academic and developmental progress
  • Whether the reduced timetable is actually meeting its objectives
  • Your wish for your child to return to school on a full-time basis, or, on increased hours and how this can be achieved

Collaborative discussions such as these are really important because you can update the school on how your child presents at home and the school will be able to update you on how your child presents in school.

Contact details:

Southampton City Council SEND Team: 023 8083 3004

Southampton City Council Inclusion Officer for Pupils with Medical Needs: 023 8083 3098