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School attendance

If a child is regularly absent they may fall behind with learning, this makes attendance fundamental in making sure young people become successful learners. When children attend school consistently they are more likely to do well in their work but also build strong relationships and feel connected with the school community.

Good attendance also demonstrates reliability which will help prepare children for life beyond education and looks positive to future employers.

What does the law say?

By law, all children of compulsory school age must receive a full-time education that meets their needs and parents are responsible for making sure they attend school or they are educated at home.

A child who misses school for at least 10% of the time is considered a persistently absent child and prolonged or frequent absenteeism is treated seriously however there are cases it’s acceptable (serious illness for example).

Parents are considered to be breaking the law when their child regularly misses school and can therefore be fined; Local authorities and schools have sufficient legal powers to prosecute parents.

Types of absence

Unauthorised absence is when children miss school without permission for example a birthday treat, a day trip, over-sleeping, taking a long weekend or shopping.

There are some reasons when absence may be authorised by the head teacher and in every case you must inform the school and explain the reasons. The school should inform you of their procedure and only the head teacher can authorise absence. They may also request further evidence to support the reasons.

Your child is okay to miss school if they are too ill to attend, you should inform the school and give them an idea of when they will return. It’s important to stay in touch with the school about longer term illness so that they can work with you to minimise disruption to your child’s learning.

How can I support good attendance?

There is support if you are finding school attendance a problem, if your child is anxious or worried about going to school please do ask the school for help.

Every child is entitled to additional support from the school to help them engage with learning and there will sometimes be named staff who have a specific responsibility for what a school might call guidance, pastoral care or personal support. Some children may find regular support helps to improve school attendance.

Attendance top tips
  • Figure out the reasons for absence as this can help you understand where your child needs support in overcoming barriers to attending school
  • Try to establish a good routine early so that when your child does start school they are in good habits such as getting plenty of sleep
  • If appointments are needed for health reasons, try to make them during after school hours or out of term time where possible
  • Offer support with homework and take an interest in their learning
  • Attend parents evenings to discuss your child’s progress
  • Take trips during school holidays rather than term time
  • Don’t allow your child to stay off school for a minor ailment
  • Ensure your child has a good understanding of why attendance is important
Further reading

Reviewed: February 2018

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