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The parents' guide to school attendance

School attendance explained for parents
How many days per year is your child expected to be in school? What happens if they’re ill or you want to go on holiday? We explain the facts around school attendance.

All children will have days when they’re not able to go to school, whether that’s due to illness, holiday or a family emergency, and the occasional day off is unlikely to affect their education.

However, missing too much school can be seriously detrimental.

A child who misses school just twice per month will lose out on 18 days’ education across the school year – that’s nearly four weeks.

Coronavirus school absence update

During the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years school attendance was not tracked or recorded in the usual way because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020-21 and the current 2021-22 school year, however, children are expected to attend as normal. This means you could potentially be fined if your child is absent for unauthorised reasons (see What happens if your child's absence is not authorised? below).

There are, however, circumstances in which pupils may be kept off school:

  • If your child is self-isolating because they have tested positive for Covid-19.
  • If your child is self-isolating because they have Covid-19 symptoms and need to take a PCR test. If they test negative and they feel well, they can stop self-isolating and return to school. 
  • If your child is self-isolating following trips overseas that require a period of quarantine.

The rules around self-isolation have changed and differ across the UK, but the NHS recommendation is to stay home and avoid contact with others if you have Covid-19. If your child does have to stay home for the above reasons, their absence will be marked as Covid-19 related or marked as 'illness', and their school may provide access to remote learning, as when we were in full lockdown.

You must send your child to school if they are a registered pupil, except in the above circumstances or if they are otherwise unwell, otherwise you may be fined. You cannot keep your child off school because you or they are anxious about the risk of coronavirus. If you have concerns, speak to your child's school, which will hopefully reassure you about the Covid safety measures in place.

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