School attendance and absence
Children must get an education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.
You can be prosecuted if you don’t give your child an education. You’ll normally get warnings and offers of help first.
When your child can miss school
You can only allow your child to miss school if either:
- you’ve got advance permission from the school
- they’re too ill to go in
There’s extra support available if your child can’t go to school for long periods because of a health problem.
Holidays in term time
You have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time.
You can only do this if:
- you make an application to the head teacher in advance (as a parent the child normally lives with)
- there are exceptional circumstances
It’s up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted. You can be fined for taking your child on holiday during term time without the school’s permission.
Illness and your child's education
If your child is ill, it’s important to take time to get better, but infection doesn’t always mean that your child has to be off school for ages. Schools can help you with guidance on how long your child should be off with an illness.
- If your child is going to be absent, contact the school on the first morning and keep the school up to date if it turns out to be a longer absence.
- Send a signed and dated note with the reason for the absence when your child returns to school.
- It is the school that decides whether to authorise an absence.
- If there is a problem speak to the school - support will be available but staff need to be told about any difficulties as soon as possible.
If your child has a medical condition
All maintained schools and academies should support children with medical conditions. You should tell the school if your child has medical needs.
You can ask to see the school’s policy on supporting pupils with medical conditions.
If your child has a disability, the school must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make sure they aren’t discriminated against.
If your child gets sick at school
By law, schools have to provide a space for:
- treatment of sick or injured pupils
- first aid or medical examinations
This is usually 2 separate rooms, both with a sink and access to a toilet.
If your child can’t go to school because of illness or injury
The school and potentially the council will provide support to make sure their education doesn’t suffer.
The school should:
- let the council know if your child is likely to be away from school for more than 15 school days
- give the council information about your child’s needs, capabilities and the programme of work
- help them reintegrate at school when they return
- make sure they’re kept informed about school events and clubs
- encourage them to stay in contact with other pupils, eg through visits or videos
The council will make sure:
- your child gets as normal an education as possible if they're going to be away from school for a long time. This could include arranging home teaching, a hospital school or teaching service, or a combination of home and hospital teaching
- your child continues to get a full-time education - unless part time is better for their health needs
- your child isn’t without access to education for more than 15 school days
- education is arranged from the start of your child’s absence if it’s clear they’re going to be away from school for long and recurring periods
Newcastle Bridges School is an alternative provision academy that specifically provides for children who can’t attend mainstream school because of illness, injury or a medical condition, including those receiving treatment in hospital.
The impact of your child being absent from school on a regular basis
- Missing out on coursework and it can be very hard to catch up.
- Losing touch with friends and teaching staff.
- Finding it more difficult to have a successful future after leaving school.
- Having more opportunities to become involved in crime and anti-social behaviour either as victim or perpetrator.
- You could be fined or prosecuted and may get a criminal record.
Help with getting your child to go to school
Talking to the school is the best place to start. Don't be afraid to get to know your child's teachers and head teacher - sharing problems is the first step to solving them. Your school will have an attendance policy available from the school or on their website. It will often identify the right person to talk to.
The school will discuss attendance problems with you and should agree a plan with you to improve your child’s attendance.
Forms of help could include accessing support from other agencies and services such as:
- support to reduce the burden on children where families are in difficulty (for example if a child is spending a lot of time caring for someone)
- working with you and your child to overcome bullying and other serious problems
- working with you to develop parenting skills and strategies to help manage your child’s behaviour
- a parenting contract
This is a voluntary written agreement between you and the school’s governing body. Between you, you agree to find ways to improve your child’s attendance. If you refuse to make a contract or you don’t stick to it, it can be used as evidence if the council decides to prosecute you.
Legal action to enforce school attendance
Councils and schools can use various legal powers if your child is missing school without a good reason. We can give you:
- a Parenting Order
- an Education Supervision Order
- a School Attendance Order
- a fine (sometimes known as a ‘penalty notice’)
You can be given one or more of these, and we don’t have to do this before prosecuting you.
This means you have to go to parenting classes. You’ll also have to do what the court says to improve your child’s school attendance.
Education Supervision Order
If we think you need support getting your child to go to school and you’re not co-operating, we can apply to a court for an Education Supervision Order.
A supervisor will be appointed to help you get your child into education. We can do this instead of prosecuting you, or as well. You may be guilty of an offence if you persistently fail to comply with reasonable directions - the maximum fine is £1,000.
School Attendance Order
We can give you a School Attendance Order if we think your child isn’t getting an education. You’ll have 15 days to provide evidence that you’ve registered your child with the school listed in the order or that you’re giving them home education. If you don’t, you could be prosecuted or given a fine.
We can fine you £60, which rises to £120 if you don’t pay within 21 days. If you don’t pay the fine after 28 days, you may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school. Our rules on when you can be fined are set out in our code of conduct. You can pay the fine online, by phone or in person at a PayPoint outlet.
You could get a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence up to 3 months. The court also gives you a Parenting Order.
How can I help my child to get the best out of school?
- Be aware of the impact of regular absences - missing school is missing out.
- Build up good habits of punctuality and attendance. These start early in life, so even before your child starts school, establish good routines, such as reading before bedtime and going to bed on time.
- Make sure your child understands the benefits of regular attendance at school.
- If your child is off school, you must let the school know why and tell them when they can expect your child back.
- It can be difficult, but try to make all appointments for the doctor, dentist, optician after school hours or during the school holidays where possible.
- Don't let your child stay off for reasons like going shopping, birthdays, minding the house, looking after brothers and sisters.
- Avoid taking family holidays in term time.
- Take an active interest in your child’s school work and offer support with homework.
- Attend parents’ evenings to discuss your child’s progress.
- Don’t let your child stay off school for a minor ailment.
- Each school day is split into two sessions and the attendance register is taken every morning and afternoon. If your child is poorly first thing but improves by lunchtime, send them into school for the afternoon session.
- If your child recovers from illness before the end of the week, send them back to school even if it's only for one day - every day counts.
Did you know?
90% attendance sounds good but means that your child misses on average:
- One half day every week.
- Nearly four weeks every school year.
- Over one school year in a school career.
2 weeks holiday in term time every year with no other absences means that your child:
- Can only ever achieve 95% attendance
- Will miss about two terms in a school career
Being just 5 minutes late every day adds up to missing about 3 days of school every year.
Need more information?
Contact the Access and Attendance Service
Phone: 0191 277 4500