If your child is registered at a school he/she must by law attend that school regularly and punctually. Your child should only miss school if he/she is ill or unable to attend for some other unavoidable reason.

If your child is absent and school either does not receive an explanation from you, or considers the explanation unsatisfactory, it will record your child’s absence as ‘unauthorised’.

Key information

A child becomes of compulsory school age when they reach the age of five and, where a parent has elected to register their child at school, they must start school in the term following their fifth birthday at the latest (although parents of many children choose to send them earlier). A child continues to be of compulsory school age until the last Friday in June in the school year that they reach the age of 16. After this age, the legal requirement to participate in education or training will fall to the young person.

Your child’s school will authorise most absences for acceptable reasons:

  • sickness
  • unavoidable medical or dental appointments (if possible, arrange these for after school or during school holidays)
  • days of religious observance

Your rights and responsibilities

  • You have a legal duty to ensure that your child receives an appropriate education.
  • If your child is registered at a school, you must ensure that they attend.

What you can do

Make sure your child arrives at school on time. This encourages habits of good timekeeping and lessens any possible classroom disruption. If your child arrives after the register has closed without a good reason, this will be recorded as an ‘unauthorised’ absence for that session.

If your child has to miss school, it is vital that you let the school know why, preferably on the first morning of the absence (your child’s school will have an attendance policy explaining how this should be done).

If you know or think that your child is having difficulties attending school, you should contact the school. It is better to do this sooner rather than later, as most problems can be dealt with very quickly.

Government school attendance consultation

The Department for Education (DfE) recognises the impact that the pandemic is continuing to have on children’s education. Although recent trends in attendance levels have been largely driven by COVID-19, the government is determined to address the wider underlying causes of children not being in school, because it is the best place for their development.

Following the public consultation, recommendations were made on how to improve school attendance.

See the link here: Working together to improve school attendance