Back to School – Everything about your child’s attendance you need to know

As the summer break draws to a close, it’s time to prepare for the new school year ahead. Whether your child is starting school for the first time or returning after a break, understanding attendance requirements and related information is crucial for a successful educational journey. This article aims to provide parents with valuable insights into various aspects of their child’s attendance, helping them navigate the requirements, including the legal rules around school attendance.

Legal Attendance Requirements

In the UK, education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure your child’s regular attendance. It is important to familiarise yourself with the specific attendance requirements outlined by your child’s school and the local education authorities. Understanding these legal obligations helps you comply with the regulations and avoid any potential consequences. Different local councils have their own rules and procedures, and the
penalties you can receive vary too. The local authorities have the power to give you:

  • a Parenting Order
  • an Education Supervision Order
  • a School Attendance Order
  • a fine (sometimes known as a ‘penalty notice’)


This order requires parents to attend parenting classes and follow court-directed actions to improve their child’s school attendance. By focusing on strengthening parental involvement, the aim is to address any underlying issues that may contribute to the child’s absence from school. Parenting Orders provide an opportunity for parents to gain valuable knowledge and support in ensuring their child’s regular attendance.


In cases where parents are uncooperative despite the council’s efforts to address the child’s school attendance, an Education Supervision Order may be sought from the court. This order appoints a supervisor who works closely with the parents to facilitate their child’s enrolment and regular attendance. The Education Supervision Order serves as an alternative to prosecution, emphasising collaborative support rather than punitive measures. It enables parents to receive guidance and assistance in overcoming any barriers that hinder their child’s attendance.


When a local council determines that a child is not receiving adequate education due to non-attendance, a School Attendance Order can be issued. This order places a legal obligation on parents to ensure their child’s enrolment in the school specified in the order or provide evidence of home education within 15 days. Failure to comply with the School Attendance Order may result in prosecution or fines. The order emphasises the importance of ensuring every child’s access to quality education.


To further encourage parents to prioritise their child’s school attendance, local councils have the authority to issue fines. Initially, each parent may receive a fine of £60, which doubles to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Non-payment after 28 days may lead to prosecution for the child’s absence from school. The imposition of fines serves as a deterrent, aiming to emphasise the significance of regular school attendance and the responsibilities of parents in facilitating it.

Absence Reporting and Procedures

Occasionally, your child may need to miss school due to illness, medical appointments, or other unavoidable circumstances. In such cases, it is essential to follow the school’s absence reporting procedures. Typically, this involves notifying the school in advance or on the day of absence, providing a valid reason, and submitting any required documentation, such as a medical certificate. Familiarise yourself with the specific absence reporting process of your child’s school to ensure compliance and help prevent any potential fines.

Managing Absences and Holidays

Family holidays or other planned absences during term time can be a source of concern for parents. The Department for Education advises that holidays during term time should be avoided whenever possible. However, if exceptional circumstances require your child to miss school, it is advisable to discuss this with the school in advance and seek their approval. Keep in mind that unauthorised absences can result in fines or legal action from your local authority.

Supporting Good Attendance Habits

Parents play a crucial role in fostering good attendance habits in their children, and ensuring they have good attendance helps you avoid trouble with the law. Communicate openly with your child about the importance of attending school regularly and the value of education, and set an example in your own life to help this go smoothly.

Communication with the School

Maintaining open lines of communication with your child’s school is essential. Stay informed about school policies, events, and important dates by regularly checking the school’s website, newsletters, or communication platforms. This communication helps ensure that you stay updated on any changes in attendance requirements or policies that may have legal implications. So, always remember to consult with your child’s school for specific guidelines and seek their guidance whenever needed.


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