Isle of Wight Council

Attendance at School

Your responsibilities as a parent

By law, all children of compulsory school age (normally five to 16) must receive a suitable full-time education. As a parent, you have a legal responsibility to make sure this happens – either by registering your child at a school or by making other arrangements to give them a suitable, full-time education. Once your child is registered at a school, you are legally responsible for making sure they attend regularly. This means your child should not have sessions of unauthorised absence.

Section 576 of the Education Act 1996 defines parent as:

  • all natural parents, whether they are married or not
  • any person who, although not a natural parent, has parental responsibility for a child or young person
  • any person who, although not a natural parent, has care of a child or young person

Having care of a child or young person means that a person with whom the child lives and who looks after the child, irrespective of what their relationship is with the child, is considered to be a parent in education law.

Recording your child's absence

Schools must take an attendance register twice a day, which is a legal document that is kept for five years. Any absences will be recorded with a specific code depending on the type of absence. Absences fall into two main categories:

  • authorised – those which schools can give you permission for
  • unauthorised – those which they will not

Examples of absences which the school is unlikely to authorise can include:

  • sickness of a parent, or other family member
  • inadequate clothing for school
  • child being used as a carer
  • problems with transport
  • non-urgent medical treatment
  • school refusal or truancy
  • days off for birthdays, shopping trips
  • family holiday since new regulations came in September 2013

If your child needs a leave of absence you must ask for permission in advance. The headteacher can only approve the absence if he/she views them to be exceptional reasons. The headteacher also decides on the number of days to authorise or unauthorise. You can request a leave of absence form from your school.