School attendance

There are only three reasons why a child may be absent from school. These are:

  • Illness
  • Religious observance
  • Where LA transport should be provided but is unavailable.

As the parent/carer(s) of a child starting a new school, you have a legal responsibility to ensure your child attends school regularly, and on time, and to provide a reason to the school for any absences. These absences will be authorised by the school following contact with parents or carers. Most schools ask parents to telephone on the first day of absence and then to provide a note when the child returns to school.

Schools may authorise other absences if they consider them to be unavoidable. If possible parents should always consult with the school in advance if their child is going to be unavoidably absent.

Only schools can authorise absence. Parents do not have this legal authority.

Absences not accepted by the school will be ‘unauthorised’. If sufficient unauthorised absence accumulates the school will take steps, such as inviting parents to a meeting to improve attendance.

Once a child is registered in a school, attendance is compulsory until the last Friday in June of the academic year in which the child turns 16 (Year 11). The government is raising the participation age to age 18 (Year 13) from 2015.

Truancy is a form of unauthorised absence where a child deliberately misses school. Parents, however, remain legally responsible for this absence. Assistance is available in this situation and may be sought via the school or by directly contacting the Warwickshire Attendance Service (WAS).

If there is no improvement in attendance a referral will be made to the WAS and this may result in legal action.

What if my child is ill?

  • If your child is too unwell to come to school, you should contact the school office as early as possible on the first day of absence and then supply a signed note on their return confirming the illness.
  • The school or school nurse can supply you with a list of the illnesses that require time off from school and the approximate length of time your child is likely to need off. Once your child has recovered, it is important that he/she returns to school as soon as possible to ensure he/she does not miss too much teaching – even if this means returning to school on the last day of a week or term.
  • If your child has a chronic, persistent or recurrent health issue, the headteacher can arrange for an interview with the school nurse to discuss the impact of this on his/her education and what additional support can be offered to help keep up. If your child’s attendance falls to a level that is likely to adversely affect his/her long term educational success, the headteacher will arrange to discuss this with you personally and may ask you to supply medical evidence for any future absences.

I want to take my child out of school during term time for a family holiday. Is that ok?

  • Headteachers can only authorise leave of absences in exceptional circumstances. Leave is unlikely, however, to be granted for the purposes of a family holiday as a norm;
  • Where parents are separated, only the parent with residence may make an application for holiday leave, and must do so on behalf of the other parent if that parent wishes to take the child out of school;
  • If a Headteacher grants a leave request, it will be for the Headteacher to determine the length of time that the child can be away from school;
  • If you have to apply for holiday leave, you should do so BEFORE booking transport and accommodation to avoid disappointment;
  • The regulations do not allow schools to give retrospective approval.  If the parents did not apply for leave of absence in advance, the absence must be recorded as unauthorised;
  • Schools have strict criteria which they must follow when deciding when to authorise a leave of absence (the government guidelines can be found on the back of the application form). If your application does not meet these criteria, the headteacher will let you know that your holiday cannot be authorised;
  • Leave of absences  which are unauthorised should not be taken. If they do so, parents are committing an offence and, in certain cases, may be subject to a Fixed Penalty Notice or prosecution.

I’m going abroad on a work assignment and need to take my child. Is that ok?

  • On rare occasions, parents may have to take their children out of school for extended periods, e.g. if working abroad, returning to their country of birth etc. If it appears likely that you may have to do this, please make an urgent appointment to discuss the implications for your child’s education with the headteacher who will talk through options for ensuring minimum disruption to his/her learning.
  • If you do not make the appropriate arrangements with the school, and/or do not return on the agreed date, the school may either report your child as ‘Missing from Education’ to the Local Authority and/or remove he/she from the school roll.

My family religion means my child needs to miss some days at school. What should I do?

  • Parents may take leave of absence for days of religious observance related to the family religion.
  • We ask that, if you are likely to need to do this, you inform the school of this when your child starts there and give as much notice as possible of the exact dates required.
  • Schools will take advice from local religious leaders as to the appropriate number of days to allow as authorised absence for each festival.

My child has a medical / dental appointment in school time. Should I re-book it in non school time?

  • Schools prefer that parents make all but emergency appointments for medical and dental check ups outside of the school day.
  • If this is not possible, please give as much notice as possible of the intended appointment.
  • If you need to collect your child from school for an appointment, you will be asked to sign him/her out of the building and back in again when you return. This is a legal requirement for Health and Safety purposes.
  • If your child must attend a series of appointments, please ensure, where possible, that times and days are varied so that the same lesson is not always missed.

Sometimes my child arrives at school late. Is that ok?

  • Punctuality is a legal requirement for school student.
  • Being on time for school is very important. Many schools concentrate on the key skills such as literacy and numeracy at the beginning of the school day. Children who arrive late can miss important learning.
  • Late arriving children also miss important information about what is happening during the day. This can leave a child confused and distressed when he/she does not know what is going on.
  • Schools will monitor lateness carefully because it is often a precursor to later disaffection and absenteeism.
  • If your child arrives late at school, he/she will have to be signed in and a parental explanation recorded. Persistent, severe or unexplained lateness can be classed as unauthorised absence and may be referred to the Local Authority.

What is unauthorised absence?

  • Any absence that is either not explained by a parent or is not agreed by the school will be counted as unauthorised. Unauthorised absence is also known as truancy.
  • Schools are required by law to report their unauthorised absences to both the Local Authority and the relevant government department (DfE).
  • Persistent or severe levels of unauthorised absence will be referred to the WAS for intervention. WAS staff will make contact with families to find out why absence is high and will offer support to help with any issues that are preventing full attendance.
  • However, if absence and/or lateness persists, the WAS has the responsibility to enforce attendance through legal interventions (Fixed Penalty Notices and/or prosecution) which may result in a fine, a Parenting Order or, in extreme cases, imprisonment.

My child doesn’t want to attend school. What should I do?

  • Most children will, at some point, tell you they do not want to go to school. This is quite normal. Always do your best to find out what has upset them and talk to your child about how to resolve any problems.
  • If your child says he/she is not happy going to school, or shows other signs of disaffection, i.e. recurrent minor ailments that quickly get better once the school day has started, reluctance to do homework or share information from school, difficulties with friendships in school, concerns about bullying etc, speak to your child’s teacher or headteacher as soon as possible.
  • Try and be calm and organised at the beginning of the day so that there is no opportunity for your child to get over anxious.
  • Praise every achievement at school, however small.
  • Make sure you understand and support the school’s behaviour policy, giving your child clear guidance about what is expected of them and why. If the problem persists, ask for professional advice, through the school. Central government has recently given money to schools to enable them to ‘buy in’ specialists who can help children to attend school regularly. Please enquire whether your child’s school has subscribed to the WAS who provide this specialist support.

My child says they have study leave? Is that likely?

  • During Key Stage 4 (Year 11), students may be offered the opportunity to take some days as study leave during public examinations.
  • Study leave is one part of a package of support offered to students at this crucial time, and may be linked to revision classes, on-site study support or peer study sessions. Each student will have an individual package of study support containing one or more of these and other elements designed to maximise their exam outcomes.
  • Study leave is an authorised absence and parents/carers will be asked to take responsibility for the supervision of their children on these occasions.

My child says he/she attends some of his/her lessons at college now. Is that possible?

  • As your child progresses through secondary school, he/she may have the opportunity to access a range of alternative education provision off the school site, e.g. at college, with a specialist provider or as an alternative to exclusion.
  • Attendance at all such provision remains compulsory and is registered and monitored in exactly the same way as school attendance.
  • Many alternative providers will ask parents and students to sign attendance contracts to underline the importance of consistent attendance – such contracts should make it clear who parents need to ring to explain why a child is absent from such provision.
  • In many cases, alternative provision will be for part of a school week and the mainstream school will continue to provide the remainder of the student’s weekly timetable.
  • Another form of alternative provision is work experience, offered to students in the final two years of compulsory education (year 10 and 11). In this case too, attendance remains compulsory and employers offering work experience placements (including students’ friends and family) will be asked to register the student’s attendance and report any absences to the school as a matter of urgency.

My child has a paper round and wants to work extra hours. Is that ok?

  • From the age of 13, children may legally seek part time employment outside of school hours.
  • All such employment must legally be registered with the Local Authority and it is the EMPLOYER who has the legal responsibility to do this. Students will be issued with an employment permit on completion of a form by the employer.
  • Parents and students will have to agree to the employment being registered and schools will be asked whether employment is likely to have a negative impact on the student’s learning.
  • If the student’s education suffers as a result of the employment, his/her employment permit may be revoked.
  • Students who work without a permit, do so in breach of the law and will not be covered by their employer’s Public Liability Insurance or under health and safety legislation in the event of any accident.

For more information on Child Employment or Entertainment, please contact the Child Employment Officer at Warwickshire County Council on telephone 01926 742522 or visit or

My child has the chance to act on TV and go on the radio. Can they be excused from school to rehearse?

  • Children of any age may be involved in entertainment, whether on stage, TV or radio or as a model. Such children may also be required to obtain a licence in order to perform.
  • Children of compulsory school age will require school authorisation if they wish to perform during school hours.
  • If performance impacts on educational outcomes, permission may be denied/ withdrawn.

For more information on Child Employment or Entertainment, please contact the Child Employment Officer at Warwickshire County Council on telephone 01926 742522 or visit or

Some Important Facts

  • There are 190 school days each year and 175 other days for shopping trips, birthday treats, non urgent appointments and holidays.
  • One day a week absence is the equivalent over a school career of 2.5 whole years of education missed.
  • 10 days holiday leave a year is the equivalent of two whole terms of education missed.
  • 15 minutes of lateness a day equals one whole year of education missed.
  • Half a day a week missed during Years 10 and 11 can mean the loss of a grade for every GCSE taken. Full attendance leads to the best educational outcomes – please give your child the best chance and make sure they are in school every day.