Why is good school attendance important for children?
The Local Authority in Rotherham takes absence from school very seriously because we know that children who attend school regularly are much more likely to achieve positive outcomes throughout their childhood and later in life. We want all children in Rotherham to thrive throughout their lives and attending school to learn and develop socially is an important part of achieving this.
The law states that all children of compulsory school age must receive a suitable full-time education and it is important that parents and carers are aware of this and that they take responsibility for making sure that their child attends school regularly and on time.
Who is responsible for what?
It is the legal responsibility of every parent or carer to make sure that their child receives an education either by attendance at a school or by education otherwise than at a school (such as Elective Home Education).
Parents and carers are responsible for making sure that their child attends school regularly.
Parents and carers are responsible for providing medical proof when their child is absent from school due to illness.
Schools are responsible, by law, for challenging parents and carers and for reporting poor attendance to the Local Authority.
Schools are expected to build strong relationships with families, listen to and understand any barriers to attendance and work with families to resolve issues.
The Local Authority is responsible for taking legal action against parents and carers when a child doesn’t attend school regularly.
What can parents do to help their child have good attendance?
- From starting at nursery, we can teach children the importance of good attendance and getting to school on time every day.
- Good bedtime and morning routines can help children to get up and get to school every day on time.
- Take an interest in their child’s day at school by asking them about what they have been doing.
- Encourage them to take part in school activities and opportunities available for them.
- Encourage them to share any problems they may have at school and speak to their teacher or headteacher so they can provide support.
- Don’t let children take time off school for minor ailments, particularly those which would not stop you from going to work.
- Where a child is poorly, let school know before the start of the school day.
- Where possible, make necessary appointments after school, at weekends, or during school holidays i.e., dentist.
- Take family holidays in school holidays.
What is the School Attendance Matters Pathway?
This is a way of working in Rotherham between schools, the Local Authority, and families when school attendance is an issue. The School Attendance Matters Pathway requires school to offer support through the Early Help Assessment and send a series of letters to parents if attendance does not improve. Enforcement will only happen in Rotherham if the Scool Attendance Matters Pathway has been followed appropriately. If parents and carers refuse support the School Attendace Matters Pathway must still be followed.
What is an Early Help Assessment and plan?
The Early Help Assessment is a document, that captures what we are worried about and what is working well within families. It is used as a way of supporting families who may need extra help. Issues with school attendance is one of the reasons for offering a family support through the Early Help Assessment. We understand that sometimes families experience difficulties and may need a helping hand. The Early Help Assessment will help in documenting the issues that are affecting family life, resulting in poor school attendance and once this is completed a plan of support is developed with the family to help.
The Early Help Assessment and plan can be completed by any professional working with a child and family, for example school, a health professional, or an Early Help Worker. This will help family and professionals to work together to address barriers to school attendance and other issues the family may be experiencing.
What is enforcement action?
The Local Authority takes poor school attendance very seriously, and enforcement action will be taken if a child’s attendance does not improve, or if a child has an unauthorised leave of absence in term time. School’s will follow the School Attendance Matters Pathway and refer to the Local Authority for enforcement action to take place.
Enforcement action can be one of the following:
- A Fixed Penalty Notice is £60 per parent, per child. This increases to £120 if not paid within 21 days. If an Fixed Penaty Notice is not paid, then it will be referred to the Magistrates Court. There is no right of appeal once a Fixed Penaty Notice has been issued according to the Code of Conduct.
- An Education Supervision Order is a court order made in the Family Court, which gives the Local Authority a supervisory role over a child’s education. When an Education Supervision Order is made, the child’s parents are legally required to comply with any directions the court makes under the Education Supervision Order. If parents do not comply with the Eduation Supervision Order they can be prosecuted.
- A referral to the Magistrates Court for prosecution. This could result in a fine of up to £2,500, an order to do unpaid work or imprisonment of up to 3 months.
- In some cases, it may also be necessary to refer to Children’s Social Care.
How can parents get support?
In the first instance parents and carers should speak to their child’s school so that they can provide support and explain what is happening. Schools will be able to speak to parents about support through an Early Help Assessment and plan.
School attendance guidance and legislation
Rotherham Code of Conduct
To comply with Human Rights legislation, it is essential that Fixed Penalty Notices are issued in a consistent manner. The Code of Conduct governs the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices in respect of poor school attendance and unauthorised holidays or leave of absence taken in term-time.