Playing Hooky: How to Prevent Unauthorised School Absence
It’s hard to convince your child to get up, get ready, and get to school! Yet school absence is extremely serious, and can even be considered a legal offence.
All schools maintain an Admissions Register and all schools except boarding schools maintain an Attendance Register. As per The Registration (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006, schools add each child’s name to the Admissions Register at the start of their tenure at the institution. From then on, whether or not the leave is authorised, any day that the pupil does not attend school is treated and recorded as an absence.
Unauthorised absence and family absence
Parents often doubt the fact that leave is considered unauthorised absence, as an increasing number of parents are perfectly aware of where their children are when they skip school. Families are increasingly planning vacations during term time and ‘authorising’ children to travel without informing the school.
Recently, in a high-profile legal battle, a father from the Isle of Wight, Jon Platt, was taken to court over a fine to be paid for his daughter’s unauthorised term-time trip to Florida. Loving parents across the nation rejoiced when the high court ruled in May 2016 that Platt did not need to pay his fine, and, perhaps as a consequence, rates of unauthorised pupil absence in England are at their highest this year, according to government figures.
In April 2017, the supreme court reversed the high court’s ruling and found against Platt. “We believe that no child should be taken out of school without good reason and the supreme court agrees with us,” says an unnamed spokesperson of the Department for Education (DfE) quoted in The Guardian. “Children only get one chance at an education and evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs.”
Last month, the Department for Education (DfE) released figures showing that around one in six students (16.9%) missed at least half a day of school in 2016-17 for a family holiday. In the previous year, this figure was only 14.7%.
According to these figures, the overall rate of unauthorised pupil absence is 4.5%, and over 10% of students are classified as being persistently absent, with attendance of 90% or less.
Legally, children are required to get an education during the school term after their fifth birthday up to the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16. “The rules on term-time absences are clear,” says the DfE spokesperson, “and we have put schools back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”
The consequences of absence
Local councils and schools are permitted to contact you, the parent, if they believe your child is not getting the education they deserve. If your child is enrolled in a school and does not attend, even for a single day, the school may contact you to inquire into reasons and solutions.
Both school and council have access to various legal measures which they can use if your child misses school regularly or without a good reason. You could be subject to:
• a Parenting Order
• an Education Supervision Order
• a School Attendance Order
• a Fine or Penalty Notice
• Prosecution, if you don’t pay the fine within 28 days
(this was the case with Jon Platt)
Children often resist going to school, sometimes for valid reasons and sometimes just because they’re not in the mood! If you find that your child is persistently refusing to go to school, you can take the help of the school and local council. The school can work with you to discuss attendance problems and customise a plan that suits you and improves your child’s interest in school.
In addition, your local council may have a team in place to help parents with their children’s school attendance. This could include support to care for dependent adults or seniors, help with bullying or other serious issues at school, social or other assistance.
Absence that is authorised by the head teacher of the school, in advance and in writing, is considered to be authorised absence. As schools have a safeguarding duty under Section 175 of the Education Act of 2002, they must and will investigate any unexplained absences. This can trigger legal measures under certain circumstances.
Schools have to regularly inform the Local Authority regarding any pupils who are regularly absent from school, have irregular attendance, or have missed 10 school days or more without the school’s permission.
Schools invariably authorise absence in case of
– Illness (with a doctor’s certificate in case of long illnesses)
– Medical or dental appointments
– Study leave
– Advance permission taken by the parent for a holiday or religious observance
There are a few other circumstances as well under which absence may be authorised. Do discuss this with your child’s school head teacher for further clarity.
Attendance monitoring with EduReg by Synel
In today’s digital world, the old methods of teachers creating paper-based records for student registration seem antiquated and outdated. Schools can use EduReg by Synel to make the most of precious teaching and administration time, and make significant savings in administration costs.
EduReg by Synel is a web-based suite of modular solutions for managing student interactions. It covers all the common elements of school life. It provides a simple, user-friendly interface for the monitoring of student attendance.
EduReg by Synel also gives your school great data security in the form of web-based electronic registration and security access control using biometric identification (fingerprint or facial recognition), allowing visitor management, dashboard views and mobile registration.
So encourage your children’s school to get on-board with EduReg by Synel. Urge your school save time without manual registration. Advise your students to take responsibility, and help your school create an atmosphere conducive to that responsibility.
The contents of this article apply only to students enrolled in schools in the UK. A different set of rules and laws apply to home-schooled students.
If you enjoyed this blog post you can also read more interesting blog posts on absence management and education here…Unauthorised School Absences. Is There a Solution?