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The 10 New Attendance Rules Schools Need to Know About for September 2024

You will know as well as I do that if a child misses just one day of school, that is one day’s worth of education lost. If it’s more than one day, those losses will be cumulative and the effect on long-term prospects could not be more damaging. Prior to Covid, absenteeism had been on the decline, but since the lockdowns, it appears attitudes towards attendance have changed and we are now seeing a steep increase in absenteeism once again - around 380,000 fewer pupils were persistently off school last year than the year before. This is not taking into account the amount of children not attending school due to SEND/SEMH.

Ministers have now published guidance on managing school attendance that will become mandatory from this September. Here's what you need to know.

£80 fines and Improvement Notices

Absence fines charged to parents will rise from £60 to £80, or £160 if not paid within 21 days. It is going to be down to the school to decide whether they issue a fine, but it will be the local council who will actually issue the fines to parents/carers.

From Autumn term 2024, only two fines can be issued to the same parent for the same child within a three-year rolling period. Any notice thereafter will automatically be charged at £160.

Parents will also receive "improvement notices", where they are are informed that this is their last opportunity to engage with education and improve their child's attendance before a fine is issued.

National fine thresholds

From September, schools will have to consider a fine if a pupil misses 10 sessions (half days) of unauthorised absence in a rolling period of 10 school weeks. They should “not have a blanket position of issuing or not issuing penalty notices”. The threshold can be met with “any combination of unauthorised absence”. For example, four sessions in term time plus six instances of arriving late.

Mandatory Daily Data Sharing

Schools must share daily attendance data with government from September. The “easiest way” to do this is by having an electronic management information system” which DfE can access and allows an automated flow of data. Nearly 90% of schools already have this in place so it should not be a huge change for a majority of schools. Schools will also be able to monitor attendance and access near real time data to understand trends in attendance patterns.

Guidance States Not To Grant Leave for Protests

It is up to schools whether they grant absences to students, but today’s updated guidance lists the scenarios this should be restricted to – including study leave, protests or interviews.

The guidance also states that “leave of absence should not be granted for a pupil to take part in protest activity during school hours”, which is a new addition to the guidance. The education secretary states that “missing school for activism is unacceptable”.

Long-Term Sickness to be Flagged with Local Authorities

Schools will have to give councils the name and address of sick pupils who they believe will miss 15 consecutive or cumulative days. Schools will also be “expected to inform a pupil’s social worker and/or youth offending team worker if there are unexplained absences from school”.

Mental Health Awareness

Schools should now be particularly mindful of pupils absent from school due to mental or physical ill health or their special educational needs and/or disabilities, and provide them with additional support.

The guidance acknowledges “many children will experience normal but difficult emotions that make them nervous about attending school, such as worries about friendships, schoolwork, examinations or variable moods”. But it is “important to note that these pupils are still expected to attend school regularly”.

B Codes

Ministers have also shaken up attendance codes, amid concerns they can be misused to send children home. A new code K will apply to education provision arranged by a council, rather than the school.

And there are greater restrictions on using code B for off-site education arranged by schools, requiring the provision to be “of an educational nature”, with their attendance approved by the school. Schools must record the nature of the education provided and “be satisfied that appropriate measures have been taken to safeguard the pupil”.

C & Y Codes

The government has also created additional “C” absence codes. While C will be for “exceptional circumstances”, C1 will be for absence for a regulated performance or employment abroad. C2 will be for pupils on part-time timetables.

A new code Q will be for pupils “unable to attend the school because of a lack of access arrangements”.

The current code Y will be split up, as follows…

Y1: Absence due to transport normally provided not being available

Y2: “Widespread disruption to travel”

Y3: For when part of a school is closed

Y4: Unexpected whole school closure (different from code # for planned closures)

Y5: For pupils in the criminal justice system

Y6: Absence due to public health guidance or law

Y7: “Any other unavoidable cause”

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