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Does My Child Have To Go To School?

You need to tell the school if your child is going to be away for any reason – if he/she is ill, needs to go to the dentist or visit a potential secondary school, for example. If you want to take your child on holiday during term time, you need to discuss this with the head teacher. If you take your child out of school during term time without permission, you could be fined. If you’re going to be away for a long period, some schools will provide National Curriculum work that can be done while your child is away.

Schools will allow children to take time off school to celebrate major religious occasions but it is a good idea to let them know in advance, in writing, that your child will be absent.

If you are leaving the area or changing schools, you must inform your current school. Unexplained or long absences will be investigated by an Educational Welfare Officer.

Each school day is considered to be divided into half-day ‘sessions’ and most pupils have to attend all sessions unless there are very good reasons. There are special arrangements under Section 444(6) of the Education Act 1996 for Traveller children because the government understands that you might have special needs that make this difficult. If you can show that your work means that you have to travel around and that your child is registered with a school and has attended as regularly as possible, you won’t be prosecuted if your child has been to school for at least 200 sessions in the year.

The Vulnerable Children’s Grant is available to local authorities to improve access to education for vulnerable children, in particular, those who are unable to attend school or whose circumstances make it difficult for them to do so. Key groups include children who are looked after by the state, those who can’t go to school for medical reasons, Gypsy and Traveller children and asylum seekers.


You need to make sure that your child goes to school unless there is a good reason such as ill health. Missing lessons will, eventually, mean that your child will have difficulty catching up. Keeping children away from school for shopping trips, to help at home or even to assist with work gives the impression that school does not matter.

If your child has problems at school and doesn’t want to go, then it’s important to try to deal with those problems by talking to his/her teacher and/or the head teacher and, maybe, getting support from other members of the family or outside agencies such as the Advisory Centre for Education (0808 800 5793) or Parentline Plus.

If your child doesn’t go to school and is not being home-schooled, an Educational Welfare Officer will contact you. Since it’s the responsibility of parents to make sure that their children are being educated, they can be fined or even imprisoned if they do not cooperate with the local authorities.