Behaviour and attendance

Find out about attendance, school refusal and what happens if your child is excluded from school.

Attendance at school 

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

By law, parents are responsible for ensuring all children of compulsory school age attend school or are educated at home. If your child misses school for at least 10% of the time they will be classed as persistently absent, which is treated seriously (unless there is a valid reason such as serious illness). You will be considered to be breaking the law and can be fined or even prosecuted. 

Types of absence

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

Authorised absence — only the headteacher can authorise absences. You must apply for permission every time and they may also request further evidence to support the reasons. The school should inform you of their procedure.

If your child is 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.

Supporting good attendance

If your child is anxious or worried about going to school, ask the school for help. Every child is entitled to additional support to help them engage with learning and there will sometimes be named staff who have a specific responsibility for this. 

School refusal

School refusal is often known as school phobia. For many children it’s a temporary state, but for some families it is more serious. 

Talk to the school as soon as you are worried. Find out if your child has unexplained absences or lateness that you do not know about — sometimes children do not behave at home and school in the same way. See if the teachers have noticed changes in mood or behaviour. Perhaps something has happened at school or there could be something bubbling under the surface that you are not aware of.

Don’t jump to conclusions – you may think you know what the problem is but you need to talk to your child and the teacher. Try not to interrogate or blame and don’t rush into decisions. Work together with the school and once you have come up with a plan, stick to it for at least half a term. It’s important to have this consistency to increase your child’s sense of security and give them a routine. It also gives everyone the chance to evaluate the success of the strategy. 

There is further information on the law surrounding school attendance in each of the regions.

Exclusion from school 

A child could be excluded for a number of reasons including breaches of the behaviour policy, or the actions of a parent but it’s important to know that most schools will only exclude a child as a last resort. Your child can’t be sent home unless it’s formally recognised as an exclusion. 

If your child is excluded the headteacher should notify you of the period of the exclusion and their reasons without delay.

They should also provide you with the following information in writing as soon as is possible:

  • The reason for the exclusion
  • The number of days the child is going to be excluded for, or letting you know that it is permanent
  • Your right to make representations to Governing Body about the exclusion, and how your child can be involved in this
  • How these representations can be made
  • Whether or not you are legally entitled to attend a meeting with the governors (and your right to bring representation or a friend if you are entitled to attend)
  • The days on which (during the first five days of exclusion) that your child must not be present in a public place

The decision to exclude permanently should be in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school”.

What happens next?

Following exclusion, either fixed term or permanent, you may be entitled to attend a meeting with the Governing Body of your school.

If the exclusion is for less than five days you do not have a legal right to attend a Governing Body meeting. You can make your representations in writing, and the Governors must consider them, however they cannot direct the child to be reinstated.

If the exclusion is for more than five but less than 15 days and you would like to make representations, you should make these in writing to the Chair of Governors. The Governing Body must consider reinstatement of your child within 50 school days. If you do not want to make representations, the Governors are not required to consider reinstating your child.

If the exclusion is for more than 15 days or is permanent the Governing Body must consider the reinstatement of the pupil within 15 school days. You have the right to attend a meeting and make your representations in person and you are also allowed to bring a representative or friend to support you in the meeting. If the school is a local authority school, a local authority representative will also attend.

If the exclusion would cause a child to miss a public examination or national curriculum test the Governing Body must consider reinstatement of the pupil within 15 school days. The Governing Body should also, as far as reasonably practicable, try and review the exclusion before the date of the test or exam; however you still have the right to make your representations.

The Local Authority has a duty to provide education from the sixth day of the exclusion. It is recommended that you accept the school place offered by the local authority, even if you are not happy with the placement, as if you refuse the local authority’s duty is discharged and the duty would then fall on you to home educate or find an alternative school.

Following the meeting

In the case of both a fixed term (over five days) and a permanent exclusion, if the Governing Body decides to reinstate a pupil, the school are under a legal duty to add an amendment to the child’s educational record which indicates the exclusion was overturned.

If your child has been given a fixed term exclusion and isn’t reinstated, there is no further right of appeal; however you are within your rights to make a formal complaint to the school to raise your concerns. The complaint should be made in line with the schools own complaints procedure.

For permanent exclusions you have the right to escalate the appeal to the Independent Review Panel. You have 15 school days from receiving the Governor’s decision to lodge your appeal and the Governing Body should give you details of when and where you should do this. You should submit as much evidence as you feel is necessary to support your case.

You are also able to bring a claim of discrimination if you feel that the exclusion arose as a result of discrimination.

Independent Review Panel

The Panel should meet within 15 school days of receiving your application (however, they can adjourn if necessary). You have the right to make written and oral representations to the panel, and any evidence should be circulated at least five days before the review.

If you have requested a SEN Expert they can inform the panel of how SEN may have been relevant to the exclusion. If the SEN expert does not attend, but you have requested one, you can ask the hearing to be adjourned until an expert is available.

The Independent Review Panel will notify you, in writing, of their decision and the reasons for that decision. They cannot direct reinstatement of the pupil. They can send the case back to the Governing Body to reconsider their decision.

Even if you tell the panel that you do not want the child to return to the school, the Independent Review Panel should treat the case the same way. If the Independent Review Panel does not recommend the Governing Body reconsider their decision, there is no further right of appeal.

What happens if the Governing Body has to reconsider?

This does not guarantee that the child will return to the school. The Governing Body should reconvene within 10 days of the Independent Review Panel decision and should seriously consider whether the child should be reinstated, however the outcome could still be the same.

If the Governing Body offers to reinstate the pupil, you can refuse and an amendment will be added to the child’s educational record to explain that the decision has been overturned, and the basis for the Governors decision.

If you do wish for the child to return, the amendment will be added in the same way and the child will be able to return, however the school may request you attend a reintegration meeting.

If the Governing Body refuses to reinstate your child, unfortunately the options to challenge this are limited. You cannot take it back to the Independent Review Panel, but you could consider legal action through Judicial Review. You would need to find a Public Law Solicitor in your area to try and challenge this.

For more information and guidance read the full Child Law Advice Service information guide or call their advice line on 0300 3305 485 or visit

Encouraging positive behaviour 

There are lots of reasons for difficult or challenging behaviour so if you’re told your child’s behaviour requires improvement, it’s important to put aside your emotions, do some fact-finding, and work together with your child and their teachers to get the best outcome.

Listen to your child without judgement

Have open conversations with your child and listen closely to what they tell you. Let them talk freely about what it’s like at school, and ask what goes well as well as what doesn’t. Older children will be able to tell you in more detail, but try and encourage your child to focus on facts rather than emotions and opinions.

Wait until your child has finished before moving on to discuss what might make things better for them. Try to avoid saying anything that might (unintentionally) reinforce or make worse any negative feelings they have about themselves or school, like you shouldn’t feel that way” or your teacher shouldn’t do that”.

Find out what the school expects

Once you’ve got a handle on your child’s view of the situation, make an appointment to speak to their teacher. Prepare for the meeting by reading the school behaviour policy, so you’ll have a good understanding of what’s expected and how the school promotes positive behaviour for learning.

The relationship you have with your child’s teacher and school will certainly affect how you feel about going in for this kind of meeting. If you’re at all worried about it, read our tips for communicating with the school.

Talk to your child’s teacher

Just as you had an open, non-judgmental conversation with your child, try and do the same with their teacher. Listen to what they tell you before asking questions or talking about solutions. Take with you some notes from the conversations you’ve had with your child, and a list of questions you’d like to ask. If you’re not clear on what the school’s behaviour policy is, or why they manage behaviour in the way they do, ask your child’s teacher to explain their reasons.

There’s lots of information that will be useful for you to share too, like a list of the things you do at home that support positive behaviour for learning, and some examples of any challenges you’ve faced in the past (or now), including what has, or hasn’t worked.

Discuss any concerns you have about how school affects your child, for example if they’re struggling with homework, reluctant to go to school, or showing any signs of anxiety or stress. If there’s something going on at home that could be affecting their behaviour at school, like a sick relative or a house move, it’s really helpful for teachers to know about it — any personal information you share will be treated with confidence.

In a nutshell, the more open the communication is between home and school, the easier it will be to work together to make school life happier for your child.

Promote positive behaviour at home

When your child does something great, like working hard on a project (not necessarily school-related), showing kindness to friends or family, or being persistent at something – let them know you’ve noticed their efforts by telling them so, and remind them they should be proud of themselves too.

Be a good role model. We can all have our off days, but don’t underestimate the power of being a good role model for your kids. If you want them to be respectful, kind (online as well as in the real’ world), and feel positive about school, then make sure they see you behaving that way too. If you have rules in place, like doing homework before TV, or no phones at the dinner table, the whole family needs to stick to them.

Support their learning. Talk positively about school and let your child know you’re there to support their learning at home, support them at exam time, attend parents’ evenings, and (as much as you can) go along to other school events.

Seek expert help if you’re worried

If you’re worried that your child’s behaviour isn’t improving, or they’re struggling to cope, make an appointment to speak to the staff member responsible for pastoral care at your child’s school. If you’re concerned there could be an underlying condition affecting their behaviour, contact your GP or other family health professional.