A-Z of codes 2: codes C and D


Continuing his series of reference guides, Ben Whitney looks at each of the recommended codes in detail.


In the second article in this series, find out about the marks for authorised absences and dual registrations. It should be noted that this information relates ONLY to pupils of compulsory school age.

Code C: Leave of absence authorised by the school (authorised absent)

‘Only exceptional circumstances warrant an authorised leave of absence. Schools should consider each request individ-ually, taking into account the circumstances, such as: the nature of the event for which leave is sought; the frequency of the request; whether the parent gave advance notice; and the pupil’s attainment, attendance and ability to catch up on missed schooling.’

(From School Attendance: Departmental Advice http://bit.ly/deptadvice)

Code C is intended to be used for any session of absence that is authorised as ‘leave’ but which isn’t covered by any of the other marks. (Where a term-time holiday has been agreed as ‘exceptional’, it still has its own code: see H). Code C is meant for situations such as weddings, family graduations and other significant ‘one-off’ events, bereavements and unexpected family crises, just for a day or two. All ‘leave’ is at the headteacher’s discretion, but the regulations have long recognised that there are reasons for absence that might be ‘unavoidable’, other than sickness (which is an immediate defence).

It is important to remember that all actions by public agencies, including schools, have to be ‘reasonable’ in law. Refusal to authorise an absence that might meet the criteria as genuinely ‘exceptional’ could be open to subsequent challenge. The DfE has effectively passed the responsibility for all such decisions to headteachers, so they have to be made with care, and be fair and proportionate.


Code C also must be used for children who are taking part in legitimate ‘performances’ (such as theatre, film, sport, modelling, TV, etc) in school-time. The November 2013 version of the DfE Guidance (http://bit.ly/OeaFG7) clarified that these children are not included in the normal restrictions on granting leave. Provided that the required licence has been issued by the local authority (LA), headteachers effectively have no choice but to allow the absence. (Amateur events or others not needing a licence remain at the discretion of the school). As there is no separate code, this means we don’t know how many sessions are missed in this way. Some children may have quite a lot of time away from school – as much as a family holiday, for example – but without the same risk of censure.

Part-time timetables

Code C (not B) also covers part-time timetables, including so-called ‘flexi-schooling’, where it has been agreed that a ‘home-educating’ parent will send their child to school only occasionally. It also has to be used for ‘extended leave’, usually overseas, which no longer has a mark of its own.

‘Unofficial’ exclusions

Some schools will also use Code C it for ‘unofficial’ exclusions, including where children are sent home while a meeting is arranged, or a scarce resource is applied for, without any alternative provision being made available in the meantime, as would be legally required if the exclusion had been done properly. This is not just an issue of incorrect practice; there is no power to:

  • Send a child home in this way beyond the same day
  • Prevent them attending
  • Remove their place at the school without due process.

If the circumstances are truly exceptional, such as the child posing a serious risk to other children, a managed procedure should be put in place with the relevant LA to protect the child’s welfare and ensure continuity of provision. The register should then be marked according to their participation in the alternative education arranged, not simply show a long row of Cs. Otherwise children can end up out of school for months or even years. This is one of the marks that may therefore increase the amount of absence, but all of it is authorised so it doesn’t show up as ‘truancy’.

Code D: Dual Registered – at another educational establishment (discounted)

‘This code is not counted as a possible attendance in the School Census. The law allows for dual registration of pupils at more than one school. This code is used to indicate that the pupil was not expected to attend the session in question because they were scheduled to attend the other school at which they are registered.

The main examples of dual registration are pupils who are attending a pupil referral unit, a hospital school or a special school on a temporary basis. It can also be used for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, but only when the pupil is known to be registered at another school during the session in question.

Each school should only record the pupil’s attendance and absence for those sessions that the pupil is scheduled to attend their school. Schools should ensure that they have in place arrangements whereby all unexplained and unexpected absence is followed up in a timely manner.’

(From School Attendance: Departmental Advice http://bit.ly/deptadvice)

The DfE Guidance above shows this code under the heading of an ‘approved educational activity’, but, as the text makes clear, that is not correct. Code Ds are discounted, not classed as either attendances or absences. This is a significant – and relatively recent – change. It applies only where children are known to be registered at two schools (including Pupil Referral Units (PRUs)), not to other kinds of alternative provision. Only the school where they are supposed to be has to record a present or absent mark for that session. Absence from that school should still be followed up in the usual way and recorded as either authorised or unauthorised. However, the other school can therefore discount those sessions from their own data.

If the pupil is currently expected to attend a PRU or special school full-time, for example, then their ‘home’ school can enter a code D for all the sessions. This keeps the pupil ‘on roll’ but records no attendance data. In this case, the PRU is responsible for recording their actual attendance and absence. This has been a help in situations where previously schools have felt that they were being penalised for the pupil’s absence elsewhere. It also acted as a disincentive for making such arrangements where the child needed them, which should no longer be the case. If it is a shared arrangement, there should still be only 10 attendance or absence marks in total for each week, split between the two schools.

Managed moves and dual registration

If the pupil is in the process of a ‘managed move’ they are not dual registered. They will normally remain on the register of their current school and be treated as a ‘guest’ (no mark is required) in the other school until the actual transfer is agreed. The home school must still record the attendance and absence, and the pupil must be allowed to return if the move is not successful. If they are ‘dual-registered’, then both schools are responsible for them, so this should only be a temporary and time-limited arrangement, otherwise both schools will appear to qualify for the one unit of funding.

Further information


Use the following item in the Toolkit to help you put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Ben Whitney is is an independent education welfare trainer, with over 20 years’ experience in attendance management for two local authorities. He has written several books, his latest being Just Ticking the Box? Refocusing school attendance. More information on his current training and consultancy services can be found at www.ben-whitney.org.uk.

First published on this website in June 2014.

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About Author

Ben Whitney

Ben Whitney is an independent education welfare consultant and trainer, with over 20 years’ experience in attendance management for two local authorities. He is the author of several books on both attendance and child protection. More information on his current training and consultancy services can be found at www.ben-whitney.org.uk.

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