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What could they become?

A good education is vital for children and young people and regular attendance at school is a key factor in opening up more opportunities in adult life. Good attendance helps children to make good progress in school and fulfil their potential in life.

Regular attendance has not been easy or possible for many during the pandemic, however, with the government prioritising education and all schools being open to all pupils, full-time attendance is now expected again from all pupils. You can read the current government guidance. 

One of the most important ways a parent can support the education of their child and the child’s social, emotional and academic development is to ensure they attend every day and on time and avoid any unauthorised absences.

Going to school regularly and being part of the school community gives children and young people a sense of belonging and means that they benefit not only from lessons and learning, but also can see friends and teachers, ask for help, join clubs, go on school trips, have a clear routine and can get mental health support.

Did you know that:

  • A child who is absent a day of school per week misses an equivalent of two years of their school life
  • Each day of school missed by a child will reduce their attendance by 0.5%, and at secondary school will mean they miss five lessons.
  • Ten whole days of school has been missed if a pupil has 95% attendance – that’s 50 lessons.
  • Twenty whole days of school has been missed if a pupil’s attendance is 90%.
  • If a pupil is persistently absent (90% attendance) they have missed 4 weeks of schooling.
  • Being 15 minutes late each day is the same as missing two weeks of school over the year.
  • Catching up on missed lessons impacts on the pupil, the teacher and other pupils in that class.

Absence during the year

Number of days absent by the end of the yearNumber of lessons missedAbsence percentageOverall attendance percentage
150.5%99.5%
5252.5%97.5%
10505%95%
2010010%90%
3015015%85%

What is authorised and unauthorised absence?

Once your child is registered at a school, you are legally responsible for making sure they attend regularly. This means your child should not have sessions of unauthorised absence.

At the head teacher’s discretion, absence may be authorised for genuine illness, for following government guidance or law relating to COVID-19 or for reasons of religious belief or for family trauma. Check with your school to be sure you understand their policy on authorised absence.

Any absence not approved by the headteacher is an unauthorised absence.

Unauthorised absence includes things like time off for shopping, birthdays, holidays, visiting relatives, arriving late and having days out.

When is a child too ill to come to school?

We know that illness is sometimes unavoidable and to be expected. However it is very important to inform the school as soon as possible on the first day of absence, letting them know the reason, by phone, email, letter or in person at the school office so that the absence is authorised.

Not all illnesses need time off school. This is a useful NHS guide on whether or not children can come into school with different types of illnesses.

Read about how schools are working to prevent infection and how they are managing cases of coronavirus.

Top tips to help prevent absence

Parents and carers are legally responsible for making sure their children attend school regularly – unless they are home educated – and schools can offer help and support to any families who are struggling with attendance for any reason.

  • talk to your child about how important it is to attend school
  • inspire them to think about what they would like to be when they grow up, and how school can help with that
  • ask regularly about how school is going
  • ensure they have a good sleep routine, eat healthily and exercise regularly
  • help them to get everything they need ready for school the night before
  • use the NHS guidance on illness
  • reassure them that the school has plans in place to reduce the spread of infections and encourage them to stick to the school’s guidance for infection prevention – find out more from your school’s website
  • book all holidays outside of term time
  • book medical and dental appointments outside school hours if possible – and if not possible, ensure your child attends school before and after the appointment
  • if your child complains of boredom, contact their class teacher, form teacher or head of year to find out more
  • provide a good environment for study at home and ensure they have time set aside for homework
  • find out if your child wants to avoid school for a reason that they’re frightened to tell you about – perhaps they’re being bullied.
  • work with the school to address any attendance issues

As a parent, you have a legal responsibility to ensure your child receives a suitable full-time education by registering your child at a school or by making other arrangements to give them a suitable, full-time education.