School attendance

Image of young school children, sitting and looking at book

School attendance is crucially important for children and young people’s education, their wellbeing, their safety, and their future prospects. Schools are there to support parents and carers to make sure their children attend school regularly. 

Sometimes though, getting children to school isn’t easy, for instance, if a child is anxious or refusing to go, this can also be a worrying time for parents. If this is the case, your child’s school will be able to help you and your child settle back into a good routine.

The pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on all of us so it’s not surprising that children, young people and their parents or carers may feel a little hesitant about going back to school however, schools are all fully open, are safe and they are good places to be. Schools want children to be in school.

School attendance is also a focus for the Department for Education and is measured by the number of sessions “lost”. Each school day has two sessions, which is why registers are taken twice a day. Ninety percent school attendance is equal to half a day of absence per week – over a year that adds up to four weeks of absence in an academic year.

Over the course of a child’s education, ninety percent attendance means they would be absent for one whole year of their education. Children who regularly miss school may fall behind in their work which can have an impact on their grades. They will also miss out on fun opportunities to learn new things and spend time with friends. Parents can also be assured that when children are in school, they are safe.

Lots of children will say that they don’t want to go to school. This could be for a variety of reasons and so it’s important to find out why from your child, to understand what the reasons are and what you and the school could do to support them.

All schools have an Attendance Officer who will call you when your child is absent and you can speak to them to ask for support. Across the council’s Children’s Services, everyone understands the importance of children attending school. The Council has an Education Welfare Team who support schools and families with attendance challenges. There are also family hubs available at The Meadows, 15 Leigh Road, SN2 5DE and The Everleigh Centre. Swindon, SN2 5HE. To arrange to see someone at one of the centres, contact the Early Help Hub consultation line on 01793 466479. 

Attendance strategy

We launched our Attendance Strategy 2022-2025, A Graduated Partnership Approach to Improving Attendance in September 2022.

Please note: This document is currently being updated and will be available to view shortly.

The strategy reflects the guidance issued by the DfE Working together to improve school attendance, which was published in May 2022. It aims to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of regular school attendance and recognises that this cannot be achieved by one agency/service alone.  

The strategy requires everyone working with children, young people and their families to work together to improve attendance.  

  • As soon as you are concerned about your child’s attendance, speak to their school. The school can offer support and advice on how you can work together to help your child be in school regularly.
  • Talk to your child about the importance of regularly attending school and find out about any concerns they might have
  • Put good routines in place at home to help your child get into the rhythm of being ready for school on time every day
  • Talk to them about their day when they get home as being interested excites them and helps them want to go the next day
  • Make routine appointments, for instance, for the dentist or optician, outside of school hours, at weekends or during the holidays where possible
  • Don’t book holidays during term-time. You’ll need permission from the head teacher for term-time absences, otherwise it’ll be recorded as an unauthorised absence.
  • If your children do miss a day, talk to their school about how they can help your child catch up

Further advice is available on the GOV.UK website

Our back to school guidance and tips may also help prepare your child for their new school year and make the transition back to school a little easier.

Parents and carers are responsible for ensuring their children attend school. It is a legal requirement for parent and carers to send children to school from the first term after their 5th birthday (starting in Reception), until they leave school at 16 (end of Year 11), or to provide a suitable home education.

Schools are required to speak to parents about every session lost and to take action if a child’s attendance is low. Schools won’t instantly issue any fines (known as Fixed Penalty Notices) without trying to understand why the child isn’t in school. Ofsted also judge schools on children’s attendance.

We understand that term time holidays and trips away are significantly cheaper during off-peak times, but you need to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time. You can be fined for taking your child on holiday during term time without the school’s permission and this fine will be sent to both parents.

Sometimes this can’t be avoided, especially if you work in some sectors where holidays will be subject to your employer’s requirements, but for most people you can negotiate with your employer to make sure you take children away in their holiday times.

There is an impact on a child’s education if you take them out of school during term time. If you do this every year, research shows that their GCSE grades will be lower, it’s harder for them to catch up and they can lose the important routine of attending school every day.

Some children have medical needs or special educational needs which mean they can’t attend every day. Your child’s school needs to know this so they can support you and your child to make sure that they support your child’s learning.

School nurses are linked to every school and every school has a Special Needs Education Coordinator (SENCO), who is there to work with your child, their teachers and parents and carers. Having a medical need or special educational need doesn’t automatically mean your child will struggle with attending or have lower achievements, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s a reason which is easily accepted.

If there is an unavoidable reason for an absence, for instance illness, this should be recorded with the school or educational setting as soon as possible. If the absence is not for an authorised reason, for instance, going for holidays during term-time, then you may be issued a fine by the school or educational setting.

From September 2023, Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) will be issued across the country.

If you are worried about a child going to their school or educational setting, then make sure you speak to someone. This could be the School Attendance officer in the first instance, their tutor or head of year. They can offer advice and support to make sure children and young people feel safe and comfortable while in their educational setting.  

The rising costs of living are worrying for many households, but support and advice is available. Head to our cost of living webpages to read more.

You can also find out about free school meals. All children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 get free school meals and if you or your child receive certain benefits, you can also apply.

You can speak to Citizens Advice Swindon (0808 278 7813) who can provide expert advice. There is also information available on the Turn2us website

Image of school coat pegs with coats and bags hanging

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