What the law says

The law entitles every child of compulsory school age to an efficient, full-time education suitable to their age, aptitude, and any special educational need they may have. It is the legal responsibility of every parent to make sure their child receives that education either by attendance at a school or by education otherwise than at a school. 

Where parents/carers decide to have their child registered at school, they have an additional legal duty to ensure their child attends that school regularly. This means their child must attend every day that the school is open, except in a small number of allowable circumstances such as being too ill to attend or being given permission for an absence in advance from the school. 

Supporting good attendance 

Some students find it harder than others to attend school and therefore at all stages of improving attendance, we will work with students and parents to remove any barriers by building strong and trusting relationships and working together to put the right support in place.  

Attendance Bingo!

Check out a clip of our termly 'Attendance Bingo', filmed in our TV studio, where the better the attendance the more bingo cards a student has and the more chances to win a prize!

First steps if attendance falls 

In the first instance, we will: 

  • support students and parents by working together to address any in-school barriers to attendance 
  • where barriers are outside of the school’s control, work with other partners where appropriate to support students and parents/carers to access any support they may need voluntarily. As a minimum, this will include meeting with students and parents/carers at risk of persistent or severe absence to understand barriers to being in school and agreeing actions or interventions to address them. This may include referrals to services and organisations that can provide support. These actions will be regularly discussed and reviewed together with students and families.

Next steps if attendance does not improve 

Where voluntary support has not been effective and/or has not been engaged with, we will work with the local authority to: 

  • put formal support in place in the form of a parenting contract or an education supervision order 
  • issue a fixed penalty notice where support would not be appropriate or has not been successful or engaged with and it is likely to change the parents’/carers’ behaviour. 

Where absence intensifies, so should the support provided. This will require the school to work in tandem with the local authority and other relevant partners to: 

  • intensify support through statutory children’s social care involvement where there are safeguarding concerns, especially where absence becomes severe (below 50% attendance) 
  • prosecute parents where all other routes have failed or are not deemed appropriate. This could include making the case for a community or parenting order where the parent is convicted, to secure engagement with support. 

You will find our full Attendance Policy on the policies page.


To tell us your child is ill or will be absent for some other valid reason, please contact the School Office on EVERY DAY OF THE ABSENCE before 8.30am: phone 01929 500599 or email.  

Wherever possible please arrange appointments, e.g. medical or dental, outside of school time. You may be asked to provide a copy of an appointment letter where these fall in school time.   

Whilst we understand financial and work-related pressures on families, we are unable to authorise holidays during term-time. 


What does the attendance percentage really mean?

Attendance %

Days Lost Lessons Missed
100% 0 days 0 lessons
97% 1 week 25 lessons
94% 2 weeks 50 lessons
90% 4 weeks 100 lessons
85% 6 weeks 150 lessons
80% 8 weeks 200 lessons


Mental Health Affecting Attendance  

The Swanage School sets and maintains high expectations for the attendance, engagement and punctuality of pupils who are anxious about attending school. It is important to recognise that, in many instances, attendance at school may serve to help with the underlying issue as much as being away from school might exacerbate it, and a prolonged period of absence may heighten their anxiety about attending in future. 

Many children will experience normal but difficult emotions that make them nervous about attending school, such as worries about friendships, schoolwork, exams or variable moods. It is important to note that these pupils are still expected to attend school regularly. Any associated anxiety about attending should be mitigated as much as possible by creating a plan to implement reasonable adjustments to alleviate specific barriers to attendance. 

Parents/carers of children experiencing social, emotional or mental health issues play a vital role in the attendance or non-attendance of that child. In developing a plan to implement reasonable adjustments to support attendance, we will involve parents/carers to support a child who is anxious about attending from an early stage, the goal is to maximise face-to-face attendance as much as possible.  

As part of any plan to support the child to attend well, we will facilitate relevant pastoral support. This will be done with the clear aim of improving attendance as much as possible while supporting the underlying mental health issue. For example, a trusted adult periodically checking how the pupil is feeling or enabling the pupil to access a quiet space at break times can be effective ways of helping a child to feel less anxious about attending school. Any plan to help the child to attend well may also involve making referrals to in-school or external professional support. 

Where support offered is not engaged with, or where all other options have been exhausted or deemed inappropriate, we will work with LAs to consider whether to formalise support or to enforce attendance through legal intervention in the normal way under their existing powers. 

Further information: Summary of responsibilities where a mental health issue is affecting attendance