Attendance in school

Parents are legally responsible for ensuring their children receive education in accordance with section 7 of the Education Act 1996 and if on a school roll that they regularly attend school. Find out more here.

What are parents' responsibilities?

Parents are legally responsible for ensuring their children receive education in accordance with section 7 of the Education Act 1996 and if on a school roll that they regularly attend school.

This means that children must:

  • arrive at school on time
  • attend regularly
  • be suitably clothed
  • and be in a condition to learn.

What will happen if my child does not attend school regularly?

All schools and academies monitor the attendance of their pupils, initially schools and academies will work with children and families to improve attendance. If attendance does not improve they will then consider a referral to the education welfare service.

When a referral is made, an action plan will be devised for those pupils without justified reason for absence and those pupils whose authorised absence appears to be unreasonably extended.

The action taken includes interviewing pupils in schools, telephone contact with parents, interviewing parents in schools, written correspondence and home visits.

GOV.UK website - School attendance (external website)

Can I be prosecuted for not sending my child to school?

All children between the ages of 5 and 16 (compulsory school age) are required, by law, to attend the school at which they are registered. Legal action can be taken, if it is considered that a parent or carer is not fulfilling their parental responsibility to ensure their child receives a full time education.

Failure to ensure regular attendance may result in the matter being placed before the Magistrates’ Court under Section 444(1a) of the Education Act 1996. Penalties can include fines up to £2,500 for each parent, consideration of a parenting order or a period of imprisonment.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 introduced penalty notices as an additional sanction to address the problem of poor school attendance. This means that for pupils with unauthorised absence from school (ie. any absence that the school has not given permission for) their parents or carers may be subject to a fine of up to £60 per parent for each child (increases to £120 if not paid within 21 days).

For more information from the Government please visit the following website:

Department of Education (DfE) Behaviour and attendance (external website)

Who is a parent?

Section 576 of the Education Act 1996 defines 'parent' as: all natural parents, whether they are married or not; any person who, although not a natural parent, has parental responsibility (as defined in the Children Act 1989) for a child or young person; and any person who, although not a natural parent, has care of a child or young person.

Having care of a child or young person means that a person with whom the child lives and who looks after the child, irrespective of what their relationship is with the child, is considered to be a parent in education law.

When does my child start or complete compulsory schooling?

A child is of compulsory school age on the first day of term following their 5th birthday and ceases to be of compulsory school age on the last Friday in June in the school year in which they reach age 16. Until that date parents or guardians must ensure their child's participation in education, at school or otherwise.

This requirement applies to all children and their parents/guardians whether or not the child is enrolled in school. If a child is enrolled in school, he or she cannot leave school until the last Friday in June.

What support is available for pregnant schoolgirls and teenage parents?

Pregnant schoolgirls and teenage parents are encouraged to remain at school for as long as they can and home tuition is provided during statutory maternity leave. Once a tutor has been allocated tuition takes place at home and pupils continue to work towards their GCSE examinations.

Young mothers are expected to return to school once they are fit to do so, attendance can be tailored to fit individual circumstances and, for most pupils, will involve a reintegration to school to allow both mother and baby to adjust.

Schools are asked to inform the education welfare service as soon as they become aware that there is a girl on their roll who might require support. An education welfare officer will work with the school to undertake an assessment and act as a link with the home tuition service.

Parents of girls who require support are asked to contact the service via the school where they are enrolled.

Support may also be available for school-age fathers, so speak to your school in the first instance.

What do I do if I am having difficulty getting my child to attend school?

It is very important that you speak with the school or with the Education Welfare Service at the earliest opportunity if you have any problems securing your child's attendance.

The school and the Education Welfare Service will give you advice and support to help you fulfil your responsibility to secure improvement in your child's attendance.

If you wish to make contact with your Education Welfare Officer please contact us using the methods below:

Education Welfare Service
County Hall
East Riding of Yorkshire
HU17 9BA,

Tel: (01482) 394000 opt 2


Education Welfare Service Leaflet (pdf 1.4mb)

My child needs to be absent from school who do I notify?

If a child is absent from school, parents must contact the school as early as possible on the first day of absence.

On your child's return to school always send a signed note which should be dated and give the reason for absence.

Any absence can disrupt your child's education so children must not be kept away from school for reasons such as:

  • looking after relatives or siblings
  • birthdays
  • house minding
  • visiting relatives
  • long weekends
  • shopping trips
  • and taking family holidays without the agreement of the headteacher.

Although you provide a reason for absence, the school may not authorise it until clear evidence is produced. This includes absence due to medical reasons.

Legally, only a headteacher can authorise or unauthorise an absence from school and it is a parent or carers' responsibility to prove a child was not able to attend.

For further information please refer to the Absence from school for exceptional circumstance page.

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