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School Life

School Attendance

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant many children have had to miss school as the country tried to control the spread of the virus. Families have had lots of different experiences of this time out of school. 

Schools have now made it as safe as possible for pupils and staff to return, so it is expected that parents will make sure their children are back in school again. Schools will support families with this. 

Being in school gives children the best chance to learn, make friends and get the most from their education.

It can be difficult to know when to send your child into school if they are unwell and lots of families worry about the fines or consequences of their children not attending.

Key Attendance Rules

There are 5 key points for parents and carers to understand about school attendance rules;

  • If your child is off school due to COVID-19 it will not count against your child’s school attendance.
  • You need to ask permission from the headteacher to take your child out of school.
  • If you take your child out of school for a holiday in term time and the headteacher has not agreed to this you could be fined.
  • If your child misses school regularly, your child’s school will speak to you to offer support.
  • Your school will speak to the Local Authority Attendance Team before taking legal action if your child is regularly absent from school.
Dive Deeper

Why Is School Attendance Important?

Sometimes it is unavoidable that your child misses school. This may be because of illness or a family emergency. This will not badly affect your child’s education. However if your child’s attendance starts to slip the negative affect might increase because;

  • It is hard for children to catch up on work missed. This quickly affects their learning and leaves gaps in their understanding.
  • It affects exam results and this means they have less choice about further education and careers.
  • It gets in the way of building strong, positive friendships and makes them more at risk of spending time with bad influences.
  • They miss out on the rules, structure and routines of school which are important practice for adult life.
  • They’re likely to be less active and not get into health habits important for physical and mental wellbeing.

School Attendance Rules

Parents have a legal responsibility to make sure their children are in education from the term after they are five until the end of the June in the year they turn 16.

All children should be either registered at a school or registered as being home schooled.

If your child is registered at a school

  • It is expected that children always attend school and arrive on time.
  • Any absences need to be agreed as being unavoidable.
  • If absences are frequent school will talk to parents to understand how they can help.

If your are home schooling

Your child's education must be seen to be good enough to meet their needs. An Education Welfare Officer will contact you to talk about how you make sure your child is getting a good quality education.

Find out more about home education

When Can My Child Be Absent?

Your child may be absent from school if;

  • They are too unwell to attend. You must inform school on the first day of illness of reason for absence.
  • They have special permission from the head teacher of their school.

Absence due to COVID-19

COVID-19 means there are some reasons when schools will understand and / or ask children to stay home;

  • They or someone they live with is self-isolating because of a positive test or symptoms of COVID-19.
  • They have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive / has symptoms of COVID-19 - they may have been told by test and trace to isolate.
  • If your child has to quarantine because they have returned from a country where this is the law.
  • If your child is ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ (previously asked to shield) during local lockdowns where schools are still open.

If your child needs to stay home for these reasons, absence will be authorised. School should make sure your child can access online learning to help them keep up.

COVID-19 is likely to cause more absences, so it is even more important that the rest of the time your child is in school.

Poor Attendance

Schools must update the Local Authority about children who are often absent from school. They must do this whether the absence is authorised or unauthorised by the headteacher. Schools have a responsibility to investigate unexplained absences to make sure children are safe.

  • If you are worried about how much time your child is missing from school for any reason talk to school as soon as possible.
  • If your child has frequent absences, school will offer support to you and to your child to help them attend school regularly.
  • If your child has longer term health problems stopping them from attending school, they will help your child access suitable education in other ways until they can get back to school.

School will work with you to help your child attend school. If it is felt you are not helping your child attend as much as possible, schools can begin a process to prosecute parents.

Who can Help?

Your child’s schools will be sensitive their needs and are there to help all pupils. If you are worried give the school a call to talk about how they can help your child.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

Qwell provides free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults in Norfolk and Waveney from a professional team of qualified counsellors.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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