FAQ's- School attendance

Page updated on: 08/09/2023


Children must have an education between the school term after their fifth birthday and the last Friday in June, in the school year that they turn 16 years old. Most children in Wales are educated in school, but some parents/carers choose to educate their children at home.

There are some circumstances when school will allow a pupil to be absent. If you want to take your child out of school for any reason other than illness, contact the school beforehand.

Birthdays, shopping trips and days out are not reasons to be absent.

Welsh Government define persistent absence as missing more than 20% of available school sessions. Therefore, a child who has 80% or below school attendance can be regarded as a persistent absentee. All children should be at school, on time, every day the school is open unless the reason for absence is unavoidable. Here are some key facts to show the importance of going to school:

  • Achieving 90 per cent in an examination is great….but if your child is at school for only 90 per cent of the school year then they will have missed 19 days - almost four whole weeks of school and learning.
  • Being just 5 minutes late a day can lead to around 3½ full days missed a year. Being late 30 minutes a day can lead to almost 21 full days missed a year!

Parents have a legal duty to ensure that their children are educated.

The law says that if a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school due to avoidable cause, the parent is guilty of an offence (Education Act 1996, Section 444(1)). Regular attendance at school will be essential to your child's potential achievements and their future life choices. If a child does not attend school and there is no acceptable reason for the absences, legal proceedings against the parent in the Magistrates' Court will be considered.

Warning letters are issued when this is the case.

Wherever possible, make medical and dental appointments after school or in school holidays.

Sometimes, children and young people are anxious or worried about going to school. This could be because of reasons inside and outside school. You may feel, under these circumstances, it is best to allow your child to miss school. This will not help find a solution. If your child is worried about going to school, you must contact it to discuss the concern so it can be resolved.

There are likely to be times when your child’s absence from school is unavoidable. This could be due to a number of reasons such as medical appointments, sickness or a family bereavement.

If your child is going to be absent, then you must let the school know immediately. The school will then record the absence. If you fail to notify the school as to why your child has not been present, then the school will need to record that period of absence as being unauthorised. If you are unable to get a medical appointment outside of school time you should send your child into school wherever possible either side of this.

If your child is absent from school on a regular basis due to illness, you may need to provide the school with the appropriate medical evidence. The right evidence will vary depending on the situation, but it needs to prove that the child was unable to attend on that session. Medical evidence can take the form of prescriptions, appointment cards, hospital letters, discharge notes etc rather than doctors’ notes.

No, it is schools’ discretion whether to authorise the absence or not. Absence should only be for unavoidable reasons. Schools generally will accept the reason given to them by parents, but if they have cause for concern, they do not have to authorise the absence and they may request evidence to support the reason given.

The local authority is fully supportive of the drive to raise school attendance, recognising the crucial link between attendance and attainment. Additionally, when children miss school, they miss more than classes as they miss important social and development opportunities which will shape their future.

Parents do not have the automatic right to take their children out of school on holiday during term time and must ask permission beforehand. Headteachers have a margin of discretion to approve holidays and will have regard to a number of factors which include the impact of continuity of learning. If the headteacher does not give permission and a parent takes a child on holiday, the absence will be marked as 'unauthorised'. We would encourage parents to prioritise excellent attendance and to discuss any proposed holidays with the school well in advance.

You can help prevent your child missing school by:

  • having a routine from an early age and sticking it to it
  • making sure your child understands the importance of good attendance and being on time.
  • making sure they understand the possible implications of not attending school.
  • taking an interest in their education - ask about schoolwork and encourage them to get involved in school activities.
  • discussing any problems they may have at school and letting their teacher know about anything that is causing concern

If possible, you should also arrange medical appointments:

  • after school hours
  • at weekends
  • during school holidays

A child’s school attendance can be affected for a number of reasons, including if there are problems with:

  • bullying
  • housing or care arrangements
  • transport to and from school
  • work and money
  • other problems within the home or school environment

If your child is absent for any of these reasons, then you should discuss these with your child’s school. This will help the school understand the reason for absence, offer support and ensure that the register is coded correctly. The school can explore support for your child and can consider referrals to support services such as Team Around the Family where appropriate.

A school may also refer you to the School Safeguarding and Attendance Team which supports families who may be experiencing difficulty in ensuring that their children attend school regularly.

This is a specialist support service which helps children of compulsory school age and their families to get the best out of the education system through regular school attendance. They can offer advice and support to help you and your child to have good attendance at school.

A penalty notice is one of the interventions available to promote better school attendance. A child who attends school regularly will benefit more from the opportunities that school provides than a child that does not attend school regularly.
Where the circumstances for issuing a penalty notice are met, a penalty notice can be issued to a parent whose child fails to attend school/alternative education provision regularly.

Penalty notices apply in respect of children who are compulsory school age. They are therefore not used for nursery age children or pupils who are in a sixth form (years 12 and 13).

If a penalty notice is issued, the penalty is £60 if paid within 28 days of receipt of the notice. This rises to £120 if paid after 28 days but within 42 days of receipt of the notice.

A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is a fine which may be issued as an alternative to prosecution. It does not require a court appearance and does not result in a criminal record. Payment of a Fixed Penalty Notice enables the parent/carer to discharge the potential liability for prosecution and subsequent conviction under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 (Section 444 of the Education Act includes provision that if a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, the parent is guilty of an offence).

It will be the responsibility of the schools/alternative provisions to request that Carmarthenshire County Council issue a penalty notice. These requests will only be considered where there is proven evidence of unauthorised absence due to the following circumstances: -

  • a pupil has a minimum of 10 sessions (5 school days) that have been lost due to unauthorised absences in the current school term.
  • there is persistent late arrival at school i.e. after the register has closed (‘U’ code as in the Attendance Codes Guidance Document 2010). Persistent for the purpose of this document means at least 10 sessions of late arrival during the current school term.

These absences do not have to be consecutive and can be a combination of the above.

Please note that the pupil’s overall attendance to date and individual circumstances will be taken into consideration prior to any penalty notice being issued.

Only the Local Authority should issue fixed penalty notices in accordance with the Code of Conduct.

If Carmarthenshire County Council receives a request to issue a penalty notice, CCC will review all the paperwork provided and an authorised officer will decide if it is appropriate to issue a penalty notice.

This is to ensure that a consistent approach is used for issuing penalty notices.

£60 if paid within 21 days or £120 if paid within 28 days of receiving the penalty notice in writing.

Prior to any prosecution the Local Authority will have tried to engage with you to improve your child’s attendance and a warning letter will have been sent outlining concerns that you are neglecting to meet your child’s education needs by ensuring regular school attendance.  The letter will also advise that, unless you make such provision for the education of your child you will be summoned before the Magistrate to answer a complaint in the matter. 

Failure to ensure a child’s regular attendance at the school at which he/she is a registered pupil is a criminal offence under the Education Act 1996. If convicted under Section 444 (1) of the Act a parent can be fined up to £1000 for each offence. A conviction under Section 444 (1a) – which is the more serious offence when a parent knowingly allows a child to be absent from school without authorisation – can lead to a fine of up to £2,500 and/or 3 months in prison.

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