Supporting schools with legal intervention around securing regular attendance
You will all be aware that children of compulsory school age who are registered at a school are expected, by law, to attend school regularly.
Last year the Supreme Court ruled that ‘regularly’ meant ‘in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school’. Following this judgement the LA asked schools to define what regular attendance meant for their school and to include this definition in their attendance policy/on their website. Some schools have yet to set this information out clearly in their policies and this has caused problems when they have subsequently asked the LA to take legal action over irregular school attendance.
Without a school clearly defining what regular attendance is, and showing how that has been communicated to parents, we cannot demonstrate that the pupil has not attended regularly (whilst ‘regularly’ is understood to be ‘in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school’). In order for the LA to best be able to support schools when they request legal intervention, we therefore ask that all schools ensure that their ‘regular attendance’ definition is included in their attendance policy/on their website.
Regular attendance could be defined: ‘At …….. School we expect pupils to attend every day that the school is open unless a reason acceptable to the school is given and we are able to authorise the absence.’
It is also difficult for the LA to support schools in legal intervention when a school requests that action is taken against a parent, but there is no evidence that the parent has been invited to attend earlier (AIM) meetings and reviews and has received the necessary warning notifications. This can be a particular issue where a school names for legal intervention, a parent who does not live with the child. Whilst it may be appropriate to request action be taken against all of those with parental responsibility; all parents with parental responsibility would need to have been involved in the earlier stages of the process for the LA to be able to proceed. Furthermore, schools should take care to ensure that it does not list an address for a parent for whom they are requesting legal intervention (including the issue of a Penalty Notice) unless they are satisfied that this is the parent’s current address. This is a formal legal process and it is not appropriate for us to be asked to serve formal notices at addresses that are not current. This has the potential to undermine later aspects of the process.
Further guidance regarding Penalty Notices will be forthcoming but, when requesting the LA issue a Penalty Notice, we request that you include evidence that each of the parents against whom it is requested that action be taken has previously been made aware that a penalty notice may be issued for the taking of unauthorised term-time leave. This might be through the regular reminders in the newsletters or through the information set out in the school’s attendance policy.
If your school has continued the practice of issuing warning letters these should be correctly, formally and personally addressed communications, with care taken to ensure they are issued to each of the parents the school is requesting the Penalty Notice for, and not just the parent the child lives with, or the parent who requested the term time leave.
The most up to date guidance produced by Gloucestershire County Council on attendance and managing absence continues to be available on schoolsnet:
The Inclusion Officer within the Education Inclusion Service for your locality:
Stroud and Cotswolds
- Susan Janneh (firstname.lastname@example.org) 01452 328008
- Sharon Holroyd (email@example.com) 01452 328761
Cheltenham and Tewkesbury
- Salma Kaka (firstname.lastname@example.org) 01452 328764
- Karen Thompson (email@example.com) 01452 328499
Gloucester and Forest