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The 10 new attendance rules schools need to know about

Ministers have published guidance on managing school attendance that will become mandatory from this September.

It includes new absence fine rates, thresholds at which penalties must be considered, requirements to share daily data with the government and new absence codes.

Here’s what schools need to know.

1. £80 fines and ‘improvement notices’ …

Absence fines charged to parents will rise from £60 to £80, or £160 if not paid within 21 days. Schools decide whether to issue fines, but councils administer them.

From the autumn, only two fines can be issued to the same parent for the same child within a three-year rolling period. Any second notice will automatically be charged at £160.

New “notices to improve” will also be the “final opportunity for a parent to engage in support and improve attendance before a penalty notice is issued”.

2. …and national fine thresholds

From September, schools will have to consider a fine if a pupil misses 10 sessions (half days) of unauthorised absence in a rolling period of 10 school weeks. They should “not have a blanket position of issuing or not issuing penalty notices”.

The threshold can be met with “any combination of unauthorised absence”. For example, four sessions in term time plus six instances of arriving late.

The period of 10 weeks can also span “different terms or school years”.

But councils “retain the discretion to issue one before the threshold is met”. This could include where parents “are deliberately avoiding the national threshold by taking several term time holidays below threshold, or for repeated absence for birthdays or other family events”.

3. Councils can use cash for support

Penalty notices are “not a money-making scheme and local authorities should not have income targets”, and revenues “must be ringfenced for attendance”, guidance says.

However, while councils previously could only use revenues to administer the fines system, they can now use any surplus on “attendance support”.

But “any remaining surplus at the end of the year must be paid to the secretary of state.”

4. Mandatory daily data sharing

Schools must share daily attendance data with government from September. The “easiest way” to do this is by having an electronic management information system” which DfE can access and allows an automated flow of data.

Nearly nine in 1- schools already have this in place.

The “View Your Education Data” dashboard will allow schools to monitor attendance and access “near real time data to understand trends in attendance patterns”.

5. Don’t give pupils leave for protests

It is up to schools whether they grant absences, but today’s updated guidance lists the scenarios this should be restricted to – including study leave or interviews.

The guidance also states that “leave of absence should not be granted for a pupil to take part in protest activity during school hours”, which is a new addition to the guidance. You can read more about that here.

6. Flag long-term sick leave with LAs

Schools will have to give councils the name and address of sick pupils who they believe will miss 15 consecutive or cumulative days.

Schools will also be “expected to inform a pupil’s social worker and/or youth offending team worker if there are unexplained absences from school”.

7. Be mindful of mental health

Schools should now be “particularly mindful of pupils absent from school due to mental or physical ill health or their special educational needs and/or disabilities, and provide them with additional support”.

It acknowledges “many children will experience normal but difficult emotions that make them nervous about attending school, such as worries about friendships, schoolwork, examinations or variable moods”.

But it is “important to note that these pupils are still expected to attend school regularly”. Doing so “may serve to help with the underlying issue”.

8. Don’t ‘retrospectively’ remove pupils from registers

Guidance is now more prescriptive about when pupils should and should not be removed from admissions registers.

It states schools cannot “retrospectively” delete a pupil’s name from the admission register or attendance register.

Where pupils have been located but not returned to class, a “joint decision” is needed between schools and LAs, and they can only be removed from a register if there are “no reasonable grounds” to believe the child will return, even with support or enforcement.

9. New restrictions on ‘B’ codes

Ministers have also shaken up attendance codes, amid concerns they can be misused to send children home.

A new code K will apply to education provision arranged by a council, rather than the school.

And there are greater restrictions on using code B for off-site education arranged by schools, requiring the provision to be “of an educational nature”, with their attendance approved by the school.

Schools must record the nature of the education provided and “be satisfied that appropriate measures have been taken to safeguard the pupil”.

10. Codes C and Y split up

The government has also created additional “C” absence codes. While C will be for “exceptional circumstances”, C1 will be for absence for a regulated performance or employment abroad. C2 will be for pupils on part-time timetables.

A new code Q will be for pupils “unable to attend the school because of a lack of access arrangements”.

The current code Y will be split up, as follows…

Y1: Absence due to transport normally provided not being available

Y2: “Widespread disruption to travel”

Y3: For when part of a school is closed

Y4: Unexpected whole school closure (different from code # for planned closures)

Y5: For pupils in the criminal justice system

Y6: Absence due to public health guidance or law

Y7: “Any other unavoidable cause”

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