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School attendance and absence

By law, all children of compulsory school age must receive a full-time education which is suitable to the child's age, ability, aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have. As a parent, you are responsible for registering your child at a school or making other arrangements to provide a suitable education.

Compulsory school age is defined as the start of term following a child's fifth birthday until the last Friday in June following their 16th birthday.

Attendance guidance for parents - September 2020 (PDF) [278KB] (opens new window)

Authorised absence

Examples of authorised absence include:

  • Illness
  • Medical appointments (routine medical/dental check-ups should be made out of school hours whenever possible), if the medical appointment occurs in the morning or afternoon, your child is expected to attend school before or after the appointment (you will need to provide evidence of the appointment)
  • Transport that was not provided by us when it should have been
  • Unavoidable cause (this means an unusual/extraordinary event that could not be avoided)
  • A specified, limited period for an immediate family member's bereavement, crisis or serious illness
  • A funeral of an immediate family member
  • Religious observance (you will need authorisation from the school at least four weeks before the event)
  • A specified, limited period for children of service personnel about to go on deployment (you will need to provide a letter from the Commanding Officer as evidence)
  • One day for a wedding of an immediate family member (you will need to provide the invitation as evidence)
  • One day for an immediate family members graduation ceremony/passing out parade (you will need to provide the invitation as evidence)
  • One-off sporting events/performing arts competitions if your child is participating and is at county standard or above (you will need to provide a letter from the performing arts/sports regional governing body as evidence)

Unauthorised absence

Examples of unauthorised absence include:

  • Caring for other family members
  • Birthdays
  • To interpret for family members
  • Having no school uniform/shoes
  • Bullying
  • Friendship problems
  • Head lice
  • Learning difficulties
  • Family holiday
  • Weddings abroad (even if it's immediate family)
  • Family anniversaries
  • Death of a pet
  • Travel problems
  • Attending immigration interviews with parents or guardian
  • Moving house
  • School refusal
  • Lateness after the school's registration period

If your child is ill or absent for any reason, you need to contact the school on the first day of absence and let them know of any days that your child will be unable to attend. Only your school can decide if the absence is authorised or not.

Getting your child to school on time is also important. Arriving late at school can be very disruptive for your child, the teacher and other children in the class. You'll need to check the times of the school before your child starts their first day as late arrival after the school's register closes, counts as an unauthorised absence for whole the morning session.

If you fail to make sure that your child attends school regularly (even if they are missing school without your knowledge), you may be issued with a penalty notice or subject to a criminal prosecution.

If you suspect your child may be missing school, is unhappy at school or if you have any concerns you should contact the school as soon as possible. If the school is concerned about your child's attendance they may refer you to the council's Inclusion, Attendance and Welfare Service who will work with you to resolve any difficulties.

The function of the Inclusion, Attendance and Welfare Service (IAWS) is to ensure that all statutory school-aged children are accounted for, receiving and attending suitable, full-time education.

The service acts as a champion for children and fulfils Plymouth City Council's legal responsibilities in relation to children missing education, persistent absence, exclusion matters and child employment and performance. Promoting regular school attendance and addressing persistent absence through compliance with government expectations, Plymouth City Council service standards and the law.

For more information about school attendance and absence please email or call 01752 307405.

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