Absence from school
Everyone has some time off school, but if you don’t have a good reason you could be in trouble.
The law says that that all children up to the age of 16 must be in education and attend school on a regular basis (this age is set to increase in the future). There are times when attending will be difficult or impossible – such as illness. But, beyond the exceptions below, if you miss school without permission, then it’s not only you who could be in trouble, but your parents or guardians too.
Don't miss out
Young people who are often absent miss out on more than just lessons. There's a direct link between being off school a lot and getting bad results. Figures from 2009/10 show that:
- Pupils who miss over 50% of school struggle to get qualifications - only 3% achieve good GCSEs (5 A* to Cs, including English and Maths).
- Pupils who miss 10-20% of school, only 35% get good GCSEs compared to 73% of those whose absence level is 5% or less.
Most young people have good attendance at school. But once students start to suffer periods of absence, it can quickly become a serious problem.
No matter why you are off school, it is very important that you get back into school as quickly as possibly, and catch up with any work you have missed.
This is where you can’t go to school because you’re genuinely ill and need to rest at home. Your parents or guardians should call the school on the first day that you are off and then provide a written note confirming why you weren’t there. After this, the school will authorise your absence.
If no reason is given, or if the school doesn’t allow your absence, then the register will say that you had unauthorised absence – often known as truancy.
Unauthorised absence (truancy)
If your school has no record of why you’ve been off, or if the school refuses permission for you to be away – for example, for a holiday in term time – then your parents or guardians might be accused of breaking the law because it is their legal responsibility to ensure you attend school regularly. This even applies to times when you go to school but skip certain lessons during the day without them knowing.
There is a good reason behind this rule.
- There are clear links between the grades someone gets in exams and how often they attend schools.
- Pupils with poor attendance levels don’t usually perform as well those who go regularly.
- According to Ofsted, any child who attends school less than 90% of the year will suffer academically.
The sort of things you can’t normally have time off school for include:
- shopping trips
- birthday treats
- caring for others at home
- non-urgent medical or dental appointments
- holidays in term time.
Dealing with absence
Your school will have someone whose job it is to keep an eye on attendance. This person will follow up, by phone or letter, when you’re not at school with an authorised absence. If you are absent a lot, the school will ask your parents or guardians to attend a meeting to see how attendance can be improved. If the school feels that parents or carers are not taking this matter seriously, they can call in the help of the Attendance and Engagement Service.
This Service will try to see why you’re not attending school frequently and agree on a plan with your family and the school (and anyone else) to try to sort the problem out. If this doesn’t work, then the problem can become a legal situation, and the Service could order:
- Penalty fines
- Parenting orders
- Education Supervision orders
If parents or guardians are found guilty of an offence, then they could face anything from a fine or community order to a term in prison.
Although the information below is mainly for parents and carers, you might want to take a look at the documents to see the sorts of things that can happen if you continue to be absent without permission from school.
- Appearance at Magistrates Court for Non School Attendance (.pdf format, 78Kb) Preparation for court and the court procedures.
- Education Supervision Orders (.pdf format, 83Kb) Education Supervision Orders - what they are and how they work.
- Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) (.pdf format, 73Kb) Advice on the Act and how it may come into play if a school age child is failing to attend school.
- Penalty Notices (.pdf format, 131Kb) Used by us where a school age child is failing to attend school.
- Prosecution for failure to attend school (.pdf format, 32Kb) The prosecution process where a school age child is failing to attend school.
- Appearance at Magistrates Court for Non School Attendance (.pdf format, 33Kb) Prosecution for failure to attend school (more serious offence) on the prosecution process (more serious offence), where a school age child is failing to attend school.
- School Attendance Orders (.pdf format, 30Kb) What they are and how they may be applied where a school age child is failing to attend school.