We know that some children and young people find it difficult to attend school. There are many complicated and tricky reasons why you might be struggling with getting your children to school, but support is available and you don’t have to struggle alone.  

If you're struggling to get your child to school, here is what we would advise:

  • begin by having an honest conversation with your child’s school. They may be able to offer extra support
  • if you still need help, our friendly locality teams can help. They have access to a whole wealth of knowledge and can provide all kinds of support – find your local team and get in touch
  • if you are concerned about your child’s academic achievement, social development or other transition concerns (the move from primary to secondary school), then you can call the Dorset Education Advice Line (DEAL).

Why attendance is important

Why attendance is important for your child or young person

Attending school on a regular basis is the key to your child doing well at school and will set them up with good routines for later life and the working world. It will also give your child the chance to: 

  • make lots of friends and feel included 
  • learn new things and develop many skills 
  • increase confidence and self esteem 
  • improve social skills 
  • achieve their potential and fulfil aspirations

90% attendance

Stuart is a child who attends school for 90% of the time. His parents think this is quite good. Stuart is absent from school for the equivalent of one half day a week. 

Over a whole school year Stuart would miss four weeks of lessons. Stuart would also spend more time away from school over the year than in school. 

If Stuart's attendance for his whole time at school was 90% he would have missed 209 days of school. That's a whole school year!

When your child is absent

What happens when your child or young person is absent

By law, schools must record absences and the reasons given. 

Only the Headteacher can officially authorise an absence in exceptional circumstances. Parents should provide reasons for absences and the school must decide whether or not they justify authorisation according to Government guidelines. 

Authorised absences

These might include a:

  • genuine illness of the pupil 
  • hospital or dental appointment for the pupil 
  • death of a near relative 
  • religious observance (faith of the parents or carers) 

Unauthorised absences

These might include:

  • a shopping trip 
  • a birthday treat 
  • oversleeping due to a late night 
  • looking after other children
  • letting the gas man or other service in
  • the parent or carer being unwell  

Whenever a child is absent from school the parent should:

  • contact the school as soon as possible on the first day of absence. If no notification of absence is received, the school office will contact the parents to ascertain the reason
  • let the school know in advance of any planned absences, for example hospital appointments (where possible)
  • make medical or dental appointments out of school hours (where possible)

Arriving late to school

What happens if your child or young person arrives late to school

When a child arrives late to school it can be very disruptive to your child, the teacher and other children in the class. If your child arrives late to school they will be marked as late on the register.

If your child arrives very late, the child will be marked as an "Unauthorised Late" - This is the same as an Unauthorised Absence. 

Term time leave

Information about taking term time leave

Family holidays should take place during the school holiday dates. These are published a year in advance. Please be mindful that you’re not entitled to a holiday during term time. 

If leave during term time cannot be avoided, a leave request form should be completed. These can be obtained from the school office. The Headteacher will then decide whether or not to authorise this absence.

Headteachers can only authorise leave during term time if "exceptional circumstances" exist, even if your child has an excellent attendance record or if you believe that the reason for the absence is justified. 

Part-time timetable

Information about part-time timetables

All pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full-time education. In very exceptional circumstances, there may be a need for a temporary part-time timetable to meet their individual needs. This is where it is in a pupil’s best interests.

This could be where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full-time education. A part-time timetable is considered as part of a re-integration package. A part-time timetable should not be used to manage a pupil’s behaviour. A part-time timetable must only be in place for the shortest time necessary. It is not a long-term solution.

Any pastoral support programme or other agreement should have a time limit. By this point the pupil is expected to attend full-time. This could be at school or with alternative provision.

There should also be formal arrangements in place for regularly reviewing it. This must take place with the pupil and their parents. In agreeing to a part-time timetable, a school has agreed to a pupil being absent from school for part of the week or day. The school must treat the absence as authorised.

Read more on part-time timetables

Absence and the law

More about legal action

In some circumstances we can take legal action to enforce school attendance.  

Read more about Dorset Children's Services penalty notice protocol

Speak to the school if you're struggling to get your child to attend school. You can also contact your relevant locality inclusion team, who will always aim to work alongside you and offer support