Attendance guidance

Sheriffhales Authorised and Unauthorised Absence. What is the difference?

Every school, by law, has to register pupils twice a day; first thing in the morning at the start of the school day, and again in the afternoon session. If a pupils fails to attend or arrives late they can be marked as an absence for that session.

If a pupil of compulsory school age is absent, the register must show whether the absence was authorised (acceptable) or unauthorised (where no acceptable reason is given for absence). Only the school can approve the reason for absence.


Authorised Absence

Where a pupil is absent due to sickness and is genuinely unable to attend school, then the school, after being informed, may authorise a child’s absence.

It is important that you phone the school or come into the office if your child is going to be absent at the start of the day. You will receive a phone call from the office if you do not inform us as it is our duty to ensure your child is safe. If we cannot make contact with you then you may receive a home visit from a member of staff: this is called a ‘’safe and well check’’ and is exactly as it sounds – a check to make sure that a child is safe and well.

In law, only the Headteacher can authorise a pupil’s absence and may require additional evidence such as a letter from your GP or other medical proof, particularly if your child’s attendance is already a concern and below 95%.


Unauthorised Absence

The law states that parents or carers must ensure that their child regularly attends the school where they are registered. Should your child fail to attend school regularly legal action may be taken against you.

It is a parent’s legal responsibility to ensure that their child, when of statutory school age, accesses education appropriate to age, needs and ability.

Under the terms of the education related provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, each parent/carer(s) may be issued with a Penalty Notice of £60, per parent, per child if:

  • You fail to ensure that your child attends school regularly
  • You allow your child to take leave of absence in term time without a school’s authorisation
  • You fail to return your child to school on an agreed date after a leave of absence
  • Your child persistently arrives late for school after the register is closed

This penalty will increase to £80 per parent per child in September 2024, as part of the Government’s drive to return attendance to pre-pandemic levels. Not paying the fine may result in a summons to the Magistrate’s Court.


Examples of Unauthorised Absence may be if your child does not attend because of:

  • Going on holiday or travelling abroad
  • Days off for birthdays, shopping trips
  • Feeling tired
  • Bad weather
  • Non urgent appointment
  • Parent unwell / no transport to bring them to school
  • Not wanting to

Swimming is part of the statutory curriculum and therefore if children do not attend swimming for reasons other than medical or illness, the non-attendance will be unauthorised.

School will not ordinarily authorise absence for:

  • attending rehearsals for non-school performances
  • attending family gatherings (other than compassionate eg funeral)
  • requests without supporting documentation

The school administrators and headteacher work regularly with the Education Welfare Officer from the Education Access Service. Children consistently not attending school / being late and when attendance falls below a certain threshold will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Where absence is persistent, parents may be asked to meet with the school to see if we can support to improve attendance. Where attendance does not improve or continues to decline, parents will receive communications from the Local Authority Access Service. In severe cases, Penalty Notices may be issued. The school always wants to work with parents to ensure high levels of attendance, which support education access.


The Headteacher will only grant a leave of absence for exceptional circumstances: a holiday or family trip (the most common reason) is not exceptional and will not ordinarily be authorised.


There are 38 weeks in the year when school is open and 14 weeks (175 DAYS) when families can visit family overseas; go on holiday; travel or attend non urgent medical appointments. So before you ask for leave of absence please consider… Is your request for leave of absence exceptional?