Attendance guidance for parents

One of the most important things you can do for your child is to make sure they attend school regularly and on time. This starts from the very first time your child attends an education setting e.g. nursery or foundation stage. 

Starting good attendance and punctuality habits early will help your child’s social development. Making and keeping friendships is easier if your child is there on time, every day. Have a look at our video for more information.


Unfortunately most children will have some absence from school, usually due to illness. It is important, however, to remember that not all illnesses mean your child cannot attend school unless obviously unwell, and that your child should return to school as soon as they are able. Never keep a child off school to avoid being late, being on time is important but it is better to miss a small part of the day than the whole day.

The longer children are away from school the harder it may be to fit back into school life. The more school work they miss the harder it will be to catch up. Even though written work can be caught up, the lesson itself cannot be re-taught and valuable explanation or group activities can be lost. 

Reporting absence

You must let school know your child is going to be absent and you will need to give a reason for the absence. Your school should be able to offer some advice on how long, if at all, your child should remain home particularly where usual childhood illnesses or infections are concerned e.g. head lice or chickenpox. If a child is too ill to attend it is vital that you contact school on the first morning of any absence and keep in touch if your child cannot return to school quickly.

Only a Head teacher can authorise absence from school. Absence will not be authorised unless the reason you offer is accepted by school, you may be asked to provide supporting evidence e.g. appointment letter or confirmation that your child has been seen by a health professional. Your child’s school will tell you what they may need to see in order to authorise an absence for illness or other medical reason.

Wherever possible make children’s appointments outside school times, particularly regular dental or medical appointments. There is no reason why a child shouldn’t go to school before an appointment or return to school afterwards unless they are unwell. Some schools allow staff to give particular medicines for a short period of time if in a prescribed form and labelled with the child’s name and dosage. If your child needs regular medication you should discuss this with school.

In certain circumstances headteachers may authorise a limited amount of absence for a child to take part in a performance or sporting event. Always discuss any form of absence with your school.

Unauthorised absence

We go into schools regularly to check registers and are provided with information about school attendance through the data systems schools use. This data tells us which children are at risk of, or who are, attending below acceptable levels as set out by the Department for Education. 

These children are classed as Persistent Absentees or at risk of becoming Persistent Absentees and schools will contact any parent whose child’s attendance is of concern, particularly where reasons for absence are not clear or are not accepted. They may ask you:

  • to provide some information, meet the Head teacher or appropriate member of staff to discuss any problems you may be having with getting your child to school
  • whether you need any help to improve attendance and/or any other problems your family may be experiencing and can ask the Multi Agency Support Team in your area to help you

Some children with medical or additional needs may need to be discussed further to make sure that the correct support is in place. 

You will be given a period of time for attendance to be monitored whilst you make efforts to improve and, if successful, no further involvement is needed.

If attendance does not improve despite help being offered we can decide to take further action against any parent/carer, including legal action, and fines or a summons to Magistrates’ Court will be considered. 

Problems in school

If your child is having problems in school please don’t keep them home, it is only delaying the chance to sort it out. Talk to someone in school.

If you are thinking of transferring schools please consider:

  • some parents who request a transfer have not discussed any problems with school but have already stopped sending their child
  • transfers can take a while to go through, meaning your child could miss a chunk of education whilst waiting
  • starting a new school at any point in their education can be disruptive for a child
  • all schools have similar Behaviour and Attendance policies, if your child has difficulty in managing their behaviour or attendance in one school it is likely that they will have similar difficulties in another school
  • bullying is not a reason to change school – you should always talk to someone in school about any concerns and try to resolve them

Attendance and the Law

The law states that all children must receive a suitable, full time education between the ages of 5 and 16, and as a parent/carer you are responsible for this.

We have a duty in Law to ensure that parents/carers are making sure that their child is receiving a suitable education. You can choose how your child receives their education; usually parents enrol their child in a local school.

Education other than at a school

Some parents chose to provide their own education and either teach their child themselves or pay for someone qualified to educate them, at home or in another private setting.

Parents can choose to deregister their child from a school in order to provide education themselves. If you choose to do this, you should be aware that there are rules and guidance you must follow to show that you can provide this to a satisfactory level. You can be asked to provide evidence at any time if the Local Authority suspects this is not happening. Please seek advice before making a decision to remove your child from school.

Holidays/Exceptional Leave in Term Time

Family holidays should be taken during school holiday periods. Your child is expected to be in school every day during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances.

If there are exceptional circumstances requiring your child to be absent from school then an application for leave should be made to the headteacher who will decide whether or not to grant the leave.

If leave is not granted and you take your child out of school for a holiday you may be fined.

Contact Prevention and Early Intervention Team

Moorfoot Building
S1 4PL

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