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Attendance

1. Attendance

The County Attendance Team is a countywide service responsible, by law, for ensuring parents/carers carry out their legal responsibility to ensure their children receive a suitable education.  County Attendance Officers work with schools and families to provide advice and support on promoting good attendance, punctuality, reducing unauthorised absences and safeguarding vulnerable children and young people of statutory school age.

Contact email: countyattendanceteam@buckscc.gov.uk

What the Law Says

Parents have a legal responsibility for ensuring that children of compulsory school age receive a full-time education ‘suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special education needs that they may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise’ Section 7 Education Act 1996.

Parents whose children are on a school register and fail to ensure the regular school attendance of their children, may be guilty of an offence under Section 444 or 444 (1A) of the Education Act 1996. The council may issue a Penalty Notice or take other statutory action through the courts to secure regular school attendance.

Legal Interventions

Penalty Notice

A penalty notice is used as an early intervention and is an alternative to prosecution under Section 444 of the Education Act for irregular school attendance which is not authorised by the school.

The school may request a penalty notice and one will be issued by the council if the request meets the criteria of the Code of Conduct.  There is no right of appeal against the issuing of a penalty notice.

Parents may discharge their potential liability for this absence period by paying the penalty notice. Failure to pay the penalty notice may result in prosecution in the magistrate’s court under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

Prosecution

The offence under Section 444 (1) of the Education Act 1996 carries a maximum fine of £1000 and the council will also seek to recover costs.

The more serious offence under Section 444 (1a) has a range of sentencing options for the court to impose on each responsible parent, including:

  • Fine of up to £2,500
  • Community based sentence
  • Three months imprisonment
  • Subject to a Parenting order – can be additional to other sentences
  • Costs may be awarded to the council

The importance of regular school attendance

Regular attendance at school is vital to help children achieve and get the best possible start in life. 

Children who frequently miss school often fall behind.  There is a strong link between good school attendance and achieving good results.  For example, only 12% of pupils with below 80% school attendance achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and Maths, compared to 68% for pupils with attendance greater than 95%. 

Good attendance at school shows potential employers that a young person is reliable.  Young people who are frequently absent from school are more likely to become involved in, or be a victim of crime and anti-social behaviour.

All schools in Buckinghamshire have their own attendance policies and are responsible for keeping accurate records of pupil attendance.  They will contact parents directly if they have any concerns about a child’s attendance. Buckinghamshire County Council offers a range of services to support families who encounter difficulties in ensuring their children attend school regularly.

Your responsibilities as a parent

All children aged between 5 and 16 are required by law to receive an education, and it is the duty of parents and carers to ensure that they are supported to do so.

Children sometimes have to miss school because of illness or if they have long term medical issues.  If this is the case, parents should contact school the same day to let them know the reason that their child is not in school.

Holidays during term time

Schools are not allowed to authorise requests for children to be taken out of school for a holiday during term time. 
 
Requests for leave can only be granted by schools if there are exceptional circumstances, and holidays are not considered exceptional.  Requests for leave must also be made to the school in advance, as the Department for Education has told schools that they cannot authorise any absences after they have been taken.

A penalty notice is a fine to parents or carers if they fail to ensure that their child/ren attend school regularly.  Buckinghamshire County Council is responsible for issuing penalty notices on behalf of schools in the county. 
 
If a penalty notice is issued, it will be one fine to cover the whole period of the absence.  So the fine would be the same amount for an absence of five days or 10 days.  For example, a parent could be issued with a £60 fine if their child misses one day of school each week over a five week period, whilst another parent might be issued the same fine for one two-week block of absence.

Penalty fines are £60 per child per parent if paid within 21 days, and £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days. If the fine is not paid, parents will be reported for prosecution.

Please contact your child’s school directly for details of their attendance policy.

Tips for good school attendance

  • Good habits start early in life, so even before your child starts school, establish good routines, such as reading before bedtime and going to bed on time
  • If your child is off school, you must let the school know why and tell them when they can expect your child back
  • Make all appointments for the doctor, dentist, optician etc. after school hours or during the school holidays where possible
  • Take an active interest in your child’s school work and offer support with homework
  • Attend parent’s evenings to discuss your child’s progress
  • Make sure your child understands the benefits of regular attendance at school
  • Don’t let your child stay off school for a minor ailment
  • Take all holidays during the school holiday periods

2. Children missing education

The Government has placed a duty on local authorities to make arrangements to establish (so far it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age and not receiving a suitable education (ie children missing education). 

Children not receiving a suitable education are at increased risk of a range of negative outcomes that could have long term damaging consequences for their life chances.

We are committed to ensuring that all pupils who go missing from schools in the county, or who disappear from other counties and may have arrived in Buckinghamshire, are speedily located.

As far as possible we aim to ensure:

  • The whereabouts are known of all pupils who go missing, who move to other areas or who are lost from schools in Buckinghamshire.
  • Partnership is established with other local authorities (LAs) and agencies to locate missing/lost pupils who may have moved across boundaries.
  • Children missing education are identified and suitable provision is made for the child's educational needs.

Children fall out of the educational system because they:

  • Fail to start appropriate provision and never enter the system;
  • Cease to attend due to illegal exclusion or withdrawal;
  • Fail to complete a transition between providers (eg unable to find a suitable school place after moving into a new local authority area or after leaving a custodial establishment).
  • Are removed by their parents.

Contact us if you think a child is missing education on 01296 382835 or childrenmissingeducation@buckscc.gov.uk 

3. Portage Service (home visiting service for children 0- 5 years old )

 

Portage is an Early Educational Programme supporting families with a young child who has a significant developmental delay and/or special need within their home environment

This includes:

  • A developmental assessment of a child’s current and emerging skills
  • The Programme will identify and work towards achieving long term goals to support a child’s development
  • A small step approach to learning through play
  • Working in partnership with Parents/Carers
  • Regular visits to a child’s home
  • Joint working with other agencies and therapists

The emphasis is on celebrating success. In between visits the parent/carer is expected to practice the activities with their children.  The Portage Worker will complete regular assessments, attend professional meetings and complete written reports as appropriate.

 

Portage Service
Buckinghamshire County Council
Wycombe Area Office
Easton Street
High Wycombe
Bucks
HP11 1NH

Telephone: 01494 475579

4. Exclusion and reintegration

Your child can be excluded either temporarily or permanently from school if they misbehave. The school will have a behaviour policy that tells you what behaviour is expected from your child and what will happen if they do not meet this standard. You can find out more about what will happen if your child is excluded on the gov.uk website.

If your child is excluded, you will get a letter from the school with details about the exclusion, including the reasons for it, how long it is in place for and your responsibilities during this time.

If your child is at risk of permanent exclusion or has been permanently excluded from school you can contact the Exclusion and Reintegration Team for advice and support. 

5. Fixed term exclusions

A head teacher may decide that your child cannot attend school for a fixed period of time as a consequence of your child’s behaviour.

For the first five days of any exclusion, you are responsible for your child’s supervision during school hours. Your child will be required to continue with their school work while they are excluded.  Please talk to the head teacher about what is expected from your child during this time. 

Risk of prosecution if child is found in public place

You must ensure that your child is not present in a public place during school hours without good reason. You are liable to prosecution or a fine if your child is found without a good reason.

If the exclusion is for longer than five days, the school is responsible for organising a full time teaching provision for your child. In some circumstances this may be on the school site.

Challenging the exclusion

You can of course discuss the decision with the head teacher. The governing body must consider anything you want to say but the rules vary according to how long the exclusion lasts. 

The governors have the power to decide whether or not the head teacher was justified in excluding the pupil. Their opinion is recorded on the pupil's file and they may add any additional documents they think appropriate like the pupil's version of the incident or a parent's statement. They do not have the power to erase the exclusion from the pupil's record. 

  • 1-5 days in a term (add all the days together if more than 1 exclusion) - The governors must consider anything you wish to say and may meet you. There is no time limit but it should be reasonably prompt. 
  • 6-15 days - The governors must meet within 50 school days after the exclusion, if you request a meeting. The governors have the power to decide to reinstate the pupil immediately or by a particular date. 
  • More than 15 days - The governors must meet within 15 school days whether you request it or not. You will be invited to the meeting. The governors have the power to decide to reinstate the pupil immediately or by a particular date. 

6. Permanent exclusions

When a head teacher decides that a pupil's behaviour is in breach of the school’s behaviour policy and if your child were to remain in the school it would seriously harm the education or welfare of others in the school, then the head teacher may decide to permanently exclude your child. This may be as a result of your child’s behaviour over a period of time or after a serious one-off incident.

Permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort. In making the decision, the head teacher will take into account the Department of Education guidelines.

Governors’ meeting

The governors of the school must meet within 15 school days of the head teacher’s decision to exclude your child to decide whether they agree. As a parent or carer you are allowed to go to the meeting and present your views or those of your child. You may take a friend with you for support.

Your child may attend some or all of the meeting if you think it is appropriate. 

At this meeting, the governors can decide whether to agree and uphold the exclusion or overturn it.

Appealing the governors’ decision

If the governors decide to uphold the decision, you can appeal to an Independent Review Panel which will be made up of people with no connection to the school.  The governors will provide information on how to do this in the letter they give you that confirms the exclusion. If you choose to make an appeal, you must do so within 15 days of receiving the letter.

Continuing education during the process

For the first five days of the exclusion, the school will set work to be completed at home. You will be responsible for your child’s supervision during school hours and you must make sure that your child is not present in a public place during school hours without a good reason. You may be fined if your child is found in a public place without a good reason.

From day six onwards, Buckinghamshire County Council will provide equivalent full time education for your child, normally through a Pupil Referral Unit. The Pupil Referral Unit will get in touch with you before day 6 to talk about your child’s education at this time.

Finding a school after exclusion

The Exclusions and Reintegration team at Buckinghamshire County Council are available to discuss your child’s future education and support you through this process.

Buckinghamshire County Council has a Fair Access Board that allocates school places for excluded pupils in a secondary school. They will consider any preference you have for a particular school but they cannot guarantee a place at your preference school. They will try to find your child a place as soon as it is felt that your child is ready to be reintegrated into a mainstream school.

If the school found by the Fair Access Board is further than three miles away, the Council will provide free transport. This is usually a bus pass.

If you do not like the school place that is offered to you, you may apply for a place at a different school using the in-year admissions process. However, if you choose to use the in-year admissions process, the Council will not be able to negotiate a reintegration plan for your child on your behalf and you will be responsible for transporting your child to and from this school at your own expense.

7. Managed moves

A managed move is a formal transfer of a child from one school to another. It only happens when both schools, the child and their parent or carer agree to the move.

It is a temporary arrangement of up to 12 weeks. At the end of the temporary arrangement, both schools, the child and the parent or carer will agree whether or not the transfer should become permanent.

A managed move could be set up if your child has been identified as being at risk of exclusion and other support strategies have not been successful.

A managed move is not appropriate when:

  • Your child is not registered at a school
  • You want to transfer your child to another school through the normal admissions process

A managed move will only happen if everyone involved agrees it is the right thing to do. You can choose not to accept the suggestion of a managed move.

People involved in the process

The managed move is coordinated by the head teachers of both schools. If both schools agree, a meeting will be set which will be attended by senior staff from both schools, the child, the parent or carer, the Pupil Referral Unit, Exclusions and Reintegration Officer, and where appropriate representatives from other agencies who are working directly with the family.

At the meeting, dates will be agreed for a review part way through the placement, and at the end of the placement.

School transport

If the proposed new school is more than 3 miles away from your home (2 miles if your child is under 8 years), Buckinghamshire County Council will provide and pay for transport if we have identified the school as appropriate for your child. This is usually a bus pass.

8. Home Tuition and Hospital Teaching Service

If a child cannot attend school due to health reasons, and their illness or injury results in them being away from school for 15 days or more, the Council is responsible for arranging education if suitable education is not otherwise being arranged.  The following guidance details how Buckinghamshire County Council will arrange this education through the commissioning of a Home Tuition Service and a Hospital Teaching Service at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

All Schools in Buckinghamshire Schools are required to ensure that all children with medical conditions, in terms of both physical and mental health, are properly supported in school so that they can play a full and active role in school life, remain healthy and achieve their academic potential.  If parents/carers have concerns that their child may be absent from school they should discuss this with their child’s school.  The school will then be able to advise on how they will ensure that the child does not fall behind with their studies and may consider a referral to the Home Tuition Services if it is appropriate and there is supporting medical evidence from a Community Paediatrician, Hospital Consultant or CAMHS Consultant.