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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 of compulsory school age (5-16 years old) 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.


Authorised absence

If your child is ill or unable to attend school for some reason, you should contact the school by telephone and/or letter to inform them. The school will then ‘authorise’ this absence.

Unauthorised absence

Absence from school without any parental explanation is called unauthorised absence. You can be prosecuted if your child’s school absence is unauthorised.

To help make sure parents are aware of any unauthorised absences, your child’s school will write to you if they are absent. They will work with you and the Targeted Support Service to help sort the problem out.

If your child is unable to attend school for a genuine reason, such as a doctors or hospital appointment, you should let the school know by phone or letter. This type of absence is known as authorised absence.

Head Teachers are no longer permitted to agree for parents to take their children on holiday during term time unless in exceptional circumstances. 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.


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 (eg the fast-track to attendance programme). If you don’t follow the plan and things don’t improve, the school will take further action. 1,200 schools are currently using Parent Support Advisers (PSAs) to work with parents to improve children's behaviour and attendance. The government is expanding the availability of PSAs to allow them to reach 10 to 15 schools in each local authority.

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

Support is provided by the Targeted Support.

Targeted Support Service

Targeted Support is a multi-disciplinary service for young people aged 8-18 who are Nottinghamshire residents and who are vulnerable, but who are not at immediate risk of harm.

Children or young people who are believed to be at immediate risk of harm should be referred straight away to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) for child protection services. Contact details can be found in the Pathway to Provision handbook. 

Targeted Support is for those young people who meet the threshold criteria for Level 2 and Level 3 services in the Pathway to Provision.

Common factors in young people who need Targeted Support include: 

  • Problems with attendance or behaviour at school 
  • Problems with drugs or alcohol 
  • Difficulties finding work, training or re-entering education having left school 
  • Being at risk of getting involved in anti-social behaviour and/or crime 
  • Going missing from home or school 
  • Being homeless or at risk of homelessness 
  • Being Young carers 
  • Being teenage parents 

The Targeted Support commitment is that each young person referred to the Service who meets the thresholds will have: 

  • A key worker – someone to talk to and to coordinate all the services they need 
  • A structured assessment and a clear plan – which is not repetitive, is easy to understand and actively includes their views 
  • Support for them and their family – to maximise the long term chances of a successful outcome 

Targeted Support works with families and young people where the level of absence is giving cause for concern and the school have made a referral to the service. 

The Targeted Support Case Manager will often visit the home and talk with students and parents about the problem and seek to resolve it amicably and achieve a return to school. However, should there be no genuine reason for absence, Targeted Support has the power to prosecute the parents for not sending their children to school.

How to refer

To make a referral to Targeted Support, please contact the Early Help Unit:

Practitioners will need to complete a request for services form [PDF].

The Early Help Unit will help young people, parents and carers to complete the form if assistance is required. All requests will need to evidence that consent has been provided by the young person, parent or carer.

Who can referrals be made to?

The Targeted Support Service is arranged into three geographical areas. Requests for services from Targeted Support Locality Teams will be allocated to a case manager by school for children and for young people up to the end of Year 11.

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