Attendance: the legal requirements

Parents 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 13 September 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 2504
Contents
  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

Parents are legally responsible for their child attending regularly

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

Parents:

  • 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, including care givers or anyone with 'parental responsibility', in its statutory guidance for schools on 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) by law must set out in its code of conduct what level of absence will lead to action being taken, so check with