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School attendance, absence and truancy

School attendance

Going to school regularly is important to your child’s future. Children who miss school frequently can fall behind with their work and do less well in exams.

Good attendance shows potential employers that your child is reliable. Research suggests that children who attend school regularly could also be at less risk of getting involved in antisocial behaviour or crime.

The law

By law, all children become compulsory school age at the beginning of the first term following their 5th birthday. Once a child is of compulsory school age children must receive a suitable full-time education. For most parents, this means registering their child at a school - though some choose to make other arrangements to provide a suitable, full-time education.

Once your child is registered at a school, you are legally responsible for making sure they attend regularly. If your child fails to do so, you risk getting a penalty notice or being prosecuted in Court.


Authorised absence

If your child is ill or unable to attend school for some reason, you should contact the school by phone to notify them. Depending on the reasons for absence, the Head Teacher will decide whether the absence can be authorised or not. Where absence is sickness related Schools may require medical certification particularly where the absence lasts a few days.

Unauthorised absence

Absence from school without any parental explanation is likely to be recorded as unauthorised absence. In addition where a schools are not satisfied with the explanation for an absence they may decide that the absence is unauthorised. In either of these situations you can be prosecuted if your child’s school absence is unauthorised.

Head Teachers are no longer permitted to agree a Leave of Absence during term time unless in exceptional circumstances. This includes where parents decide to take their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. If a parent intends to take their child out of school for a leave of absence during term time, they must have requested this in advance and had their request agreed by the Head Teacher. Failure to do this could result in a fine or prosecution.

In Nottinghamshire, parents/carers could be fined if their child has 5 days unauthorised absence over a 6 week period or for 3 or more days unauthorised absence where this is for the purpose of a holiday in term time.


There are many different issues which can affect school attendance. Examples include problems with:

  • bullying
  • housing or care arrangements
  • transport to and from school
  • work and money.

If your child starts missing school, there may a problem you are not aware of. Ask your child first, then approach their teacher or form tutor.

Support from school

Your child’s school is the first place to go to discuss any attendance problems. The school should try to agree a plan with you to improve your child’s attendance. If you don’t follow the plan and things don’t improve, the school will take further action.

Support from the local authority

The local authority can also help if you are struggling to ensure that your child goes to school. Potential forms of support include:

  • home tuition for children with long term and recurring illnesses, so they do not fall too far behind
  • support to help 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 families and schools to overcome bullying and other serious problems.

If you think you need this help you can contact the Early Help Unit 01623 433 500

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