From September, pupils of compulsory school age (5-16 years) must attend school, unless they have been told to self-isolate (e.g. following a positive test result) or advised to shield by their health professional.
The government has asked schools and local authorities to identify pupils who are reluctant or anxious about returning to school and develop plans for re-engaging them. Schools should use the additional catch-up funding they will receive, as well as existing funding and resources, to put measures in place for those families who will need extra support to ensure their child attends school regularly. The government has said that schools can offer phased returns where needed.
Sheffield City Council’s Inclusion and Attendance Team told us: “Whilst the government has stated that from September school attendance will be compulsory, in Sheffield we recognise that for some children and families the transition back into school may be difficult. Some pupils may need extra support and plans to ensure all identified needs are met and supported. Schools will follow their own attendance processes and we will continue to support them with this. We can offer general advice and also assess individual pupils whose attendance causes concerns, to find out if more support is needed. We would encourage parents to let their school know if their child is having difficulties with the transition back into school, so that they can offer support.”
If a child’s attendance falls below the school’s target, parents are likely to receive a standard letter that will highlight parents’ responsibilities and may mention fines. This may feel inappropriate if there are genuine reasons for the child’s absence. Communication with school attendance staff is key to ensure support is offered if needed. Parents should be aware that it is the head teacher who decides whether to authorise an absence. For unauthorised absences, the school can ask the local authority to issue a fine. The local authority will assess the appropriateness of such requests on an individual basis.