Attendance: the legal requirements

Parents and carers have a legal responsibility to send their child to school. Read on for guidance on authorised absence and learn what to do if pupils aren't attending.

Last reviewed on 8 March 2024
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 2504
  1. Parents are legally responsible for their child attending regularly
  2. Check how your LA defines 'regular' attendance
  3. Schools have a duty to support good attendance 
  4. Persistent and severe absence: what they mean
  5. Absence is permitted in certain circumstances
  6. Read more about absence and attendance

Parents are legally responsible for their child attending regularly

All children of compulsory school age must receive a suitable full-time education.


  • Must make sure their child is regularly attending school or 'otherwise' (i.e. another suitable alternative)
  • Are guilty of an offence if their child doesn't regularly attend school

This is set out in section 7 and section 444(1) of the Education Act (1996).

The DfE reiterates that responsibility for ensuring attendance lies with parents, which includes caregivers or anyone with parental responsibility, in its school attendance parental responsibility measures guidance (page 5).

Neither the legislation nor the DfE’s guidance explains what is meant by 'regular' attendance, and there is no minimum number of days per year that a child needs to attend. However, your local authority (LA) must, by law, set out in its code of conduct what level of absence will lead to action being taken, so check