School attendance

By law, all children of compulsory school age (5-16 years) must receive a full-time education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude.

Parents are required by law to make sure their children attend school regularly. For further information see the Education Act (1996) Section 444.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s attendance, in the first instance please contact your child’s school.

Children’s Services attendance team deal with issues concerning pupils who are not attending school regularly.

Every school has access to an Attendance and Entitlement Officer for help and advice on issues concerning pupil specific attendance. They can be contacted via email at or via the attendance duty line on 01603 223681.

Attending school

You must make sure that your child gets a full-time education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year that they turn 16. You can send your child to school or educate them yourself.

You will be contacted by your child’s school if your child doesn’t turn up for school, even if they’re only absent for a day.

Refusing to attend school

There may be several reasons your child might refuse to go to school. These can include feelings of:

  • Anxiety
  • Negative thoughts about school
  • Falling behind in schoolwork
  • Loss of friends
  • Decreased motivation
  • Pleasurable activities at home

It can be difficult trying to convince a child or young person to go somewhere that is causing them negative feelings. However, the more time they spend out of school, the stronger these feelings become and the harder it will be for them to return.

When tackling this issue, it is important to try and understand why your child doesn’t want to attend school. Talk to your child about their worries by calmly listening to them acknowledging their fears. If they feel too worried about talking to you in person, ask them to write their concerns down. Ask them what they think the positives are in attending school. Let the school know that there is an issue as soon as possible and work in partnership with the school to address it.

More information can be found on what to do if your child is feeling anxious about school and school attendance on the Just One Norfolk website. 

Missing school

Parents are legally responsible for ensuring that their child attends school regularly, and your child’s school will work with you to improve your child’s attendance. If this is not achieved, the school may refer you to the Children’s Services attendance team, who may issue you with a summons to appear in court. If parents are convicted in court, they may be fined up to £1,000.

In some circumstances, if the parents have knowingly allowed their child to be absent from school, they may be fined up to £2,500 or even sent to prison for 3 months.


If your child is going to be absent from school, you should contact your child’s school on the first morning of any absence by phone or in person. You should explain the reason for your child’s absence and indicate when you think he or she is likely to return. You should also do this if you child is going to be late.

If you do not notify the school, the school will probably try and contact you. The school may also decide to record your child’s absence as unauthorised.

You can only allow your child to miss school if:

  • They’re too ill to go in
  • You’ve got advance permission from the school
  • Unavoidable reasons, that you should discuss with the school

There is extra support available if your child can’t go to school for long periods because of a health problem.

FAQs for absence

Children do become ill on occasion, but it’s important that regular attendance is maintained as far as possible. Don’t let minor or trivial ailments stop your child from attending school. The school will always contact you if your child is too unwell to complete the school day. If your child is absent, you must call the school on the first day of absence and send a letter to the school when they return. Please contact your child’s school for further information or advice.

If your child is being bullied, the situation will not be resolved by keeping your child off school. You need to work with the school and speak to your child’s class teacher in the first instance. Some cases of bullying can take a while to resolve, but it’s essential that your child continues to attend school to avoid any further complications e.g. falling behind in their work.

Unless your child is receiving urgent medical or dental treatment, all appointments should where possible be made after school, or during school holidays. If the appointment is unavoidable, please speak to the headteacher for further advice and try to keep any disruption to your child’s school day to a minimum.
We appreciate that needs may unexpectedly arise; however, it is not acceptable to take your child out of school to buy a uniform. This should be done outside school hours. If your child is without the correct uniform, speak to the headteacher to see whether alternative arrangements can be made.
A school will only agree to this in exceptional circumstances. The school will be able to advise you of its policy regarding term-time leave. You must get permission from the headteacher before taking your child out of school. Failure to do so may result in a fixed penalty notice being issued or your child being removed from the school’s register.
If your child fails to attend school regularly and the absences are unauthorised, as a parent/carer you are guilty of an offence under Section 444 of The Education Act 1996. You may be prosecuted in the magistrates’ court and if found guilty are liable to a fine of up to £2,500 or imprisonment. Alternatively, you may be issued with a penalty notice. If you do not pay the penalty notice you will be prosecuted in the magistrates’ court.