Latest article: Transition Away from School: A Framework to Support Professional Understandings


Gillie, S. (2023). Transition Away from School: A Framework to Support Professional Understandings. International Journal of Educational and Life Transitions, 2(1): 23, pp. 1–17. DOI:



You can listen to Dr Sarah Gillie providing an overview of the article here.


Transcript of the podcast

In the UK, school attendance is the norm, but the wording of the Education Act places the responsibility on parents and allows for children’s education to take place ‘at school or otherwise’. The 1999 government commissioned review of home education defined the practice as ‘the full-time education of children in and around the home by their parents or guardians or by tutors appointed by the parents or guardians’.


The numbers of families engaged in home education have risen markedly in recent years, with year-on-year increases of around 20 percent noted in the five years before the covid-19 lockdowns. Whether or not the post-covid escalation in deregistrations will decelerate as predicted by the Association of Directors of Children’s services is yet to be seen.


This paper blends Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems model with Turner’s liminal theory and stages of social drama to explore how some families of children with diagnosed or suspected learning differences deregister from schools and undertake home education.


A bioecological approach is often used to understand relationships and the impacts of wider societal factors on individuals. Transitions and situations that take place at the margins of typical experience are often seen from a liminal perspective. Combining these lenses in the context of a social drama allowed an understanding of the reasons for and manner of processes undertaken, or undergone, by families in the study.


In an age where information is easily accessible on setting and government websites, parents seem to base their high expectations of school on a perceived promise of policy and state-defined attainment targets. These can contrast starkly with some neurodivergent children’s school experiences when training, resourcing and funding for diagnostic assessment and specialist support are in short supply.


Children’s and parents’ interactions with schools and educational professionals provide opportunities for redressive action. However, often, these seem instead to exacerbate already discordant relationships. Processes begun under such circumstances appear to escalate into a chain reaction where, eventually, families in distress feel home education is their only remaining option.


The paper argues that by recognising when school-based experiences mean students and families are at risk of discord and resulting liminality, education professionals can adapt their practice. By ensuring positive proximal processes in the microsystem and promoting mesosystemic interactions in the best interests of the learner, professionals may avoid crisis  through the collaborative relationships already required by existing policy.

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