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Absence from school

There are very few reasons why your child should be absent from school. For the following, you should notify the school as soon as you know your child will be unable to attend:

  • Illness, not including minor sickness such as headaches, coughs and colds. You may need to provide medical evidence from your doctor for illness
  • Exceptional family circumstances, such as bereavement

In the following circumstances you must send your request to the headteacher, with as much notice as possible, for approval:

  • Medical appointments, which should be arranged outside of school hours unless there is no alternative
  • Religious dates and festivals officially recognised by the parents’ religion 

All children between the age of five and 16 must receive a suitable full time education. By law, children must start school by the term following their fifth birthday. Compulsory education in England ends on the last Friday in June in the school year your child reaches 16 (this includes children whose birthday falls during July and August). Your child cannot leave before this date.

Under The Education and Skills Act 2008, the age of compulsory participation in education or training has been increased to 18. Young people will be able to participate in a way that suits them, such as in full‐time education at school or college, on an apprenticeship, or working or volunteering full‐time.

Most parents want their children to get on well in life and that means getting a good education and building aspirations for the future. If children do not attend school regularly, they fall behind in their learning and may not be able to keep up with their work. Children and young people do better at school, and in their GCSEs, with regular school attendance.

Being on time and setting good attendance patterns from an early age will benefit children later in life. Parents should always encourage their children to attend school and not allow them time off for minor ailments. It is not acceptable to take time off for:

  • holidays and birthdays,
  • shopping trips and outings
  • looking after brothers and sisters
  • waiting for deliveries
  • visiting relatives and friends
  • lack of uniform
  • translating for non-English speaking parents

Employers recruit people who are reliable, so good attendance will increase a child’s employment chances.

Being late for school means your child is missing the start of the day or lesson. They may miss important information and cause disruption to other pupil's education. Additionally, lateness may become a bad habit which has a negative impact on their future. It can also be a precursor to poor attendance.

The Department for Education has reduced the threshold at which a pupil is defined as persistently absent to 15%. Once your child’s absence reaches this, the school will inform the Education Welfare Service, who will start to work with you and your child to address the reasons why they are not attending school regularly.

The Education Welfare Officers are employed to ensure parents and carers meet their legal responsibilities for education through working in partnership with a variety of agencies. They will advise and support the school with effective strategies for promoting attendance and addressing levels of absence. Education Welfare Officers may work with you in a number of ways, including meeting with you both in school and at your home.

Education Welfare Officers may also be involved in truancy patrols with the Safer School's Community Police Officers, to raise the awareness of attendance across our communities. 

This is when the head teacher of a school or academy has not given permission for your child to be absent. Children should not be taken out of school without good reason, and parents and carers must follow the school's policy when requesting absence.

Examples of unacceptable reasons for missing school are:

  • birthdays and holidays
  • lack of school uniform
  • looking after siblings or visiting relatives
  • shopping trips
  • waiting in for a delivery

Family holidays

Family holidays should not be taken during term time. Head teachers can only authorise a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances. If a head teacher grants a leave of absence request, they must determine the length of time the child can be away from school.

Taking a child on holiday without permission, or staying longer than agreed, is an unauthorised absence and you will be breaking the law. This could lead to the Education Welfare Service issuing a penalty notice, a criminal record if the case is proven in court, and the loss of a school place.

Penalty notice

Under the Antisocial Behaviour Act we can issue penalty notices if a parent or carer is unwilling to improve their child's attendance. Parents and carers commit an offence if a child fails to attend regularly and absences are not authorised. Penalty notices are issued if a pupil has twenty or more unauthorised absences within a three month period, or if there has been an unauthorised leave of absence of five or more consecutive days.

A penalty notice is an alternative to prosecution and does not require an appearance in court. Payment of a penalty notice enable parents and carers to avoid convictions.

The Education Welfare Service will consider a penalty notice based on the information supplied by the school. Payment within 21 days of receiving a notice is £60 and £120 if paid between 22-28 days. If no payment is received, legal proceedings will begin in the Magistrates Court.

Prosecution can result in a fine of £1,000 for each child. When a parent knows their child is failing to attend and doesn't act, a higher penalty of £2,500 and a custodial sentence can apply.

School Attendance Order (SAO)

An SAO will be issued under Section 443 of the Education Act 1996 if a child is not on roll at a school and we are concerned that arrangements to provide an alternative, suitable, full-time education have not been made.

An SAO directs parents and carers to send their child to a specified school. The Education Welfare Service will make every effort to discuss the child's education with the parents and carers, but if this is unsuccessful a notice is issued stating that the parent or carer must show that education at a school or otherwise is in place within a specified time period (no less than 15 days from the date the notice is issued).

Parenting Orders (PO)

Under the Crime & Disorder Act Sect 8(4) courts may impose a PO, in addition to other penalties, in cases involving children of compulsory school age. A PO can be imposed for up to a year.

It requires the parents and carers to attend counselling or guidance sessions in order to receive help and support in dealing with their child. Parents and carers must also comply with terms specified on the PO.

The PO can be made on one or both parents and their consent is not required. All POs are supervised by an Education Welfare Officer.

The purpose of the parenting forum (sometimes known as parenting classes) is for parents and carers to meet together to share difficulties they have encountered concerning school attendance. They discuss strategies which have been successful, and learn fresh skills and perspectives from one another. There is also a focus on improving communication and relationships with their children to enhance family life.

Topics include:

  • setting boundaries around school attendance and punctuality
  • tackling truancy and the reasons behind it
  • working successfully with agencies to resolve problems

The parenting forum may be imposed on parents as part of an Education Supervision Order (ESO) or a Parenting Order (PO). If parents fail to attend these sessions, the Enfield Education Welfare Service may have no option but to consider further legal action to secure their child's attendance in accordance with The Education Act 1996, sec 444 (1A).