A-Z of codes 3: codes E, F and G

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In our continuing series of reference guides, Ben Whitney explores each of the recommended codes in detail.

This includes:

  • The text of the official DfE Advice (November 2013)
  • Commentary on the issues raised
  • Some points to inform best practice (see the Toolkit).

In the third article of this series, find out about the marks for Codes E, F and G, relating to exclusions and unauthorised leave. It should be noted that this guidance relates only to those of compulsory school age.

Code E: Excluded but no alternative provision made (authorised absent)

‘If no alternative provision is made for a pupil to continue their education whilst they are excluded but still on the admission register, they should be marked absent in the attendance register using Code E. Alternative provision must be arranged for each excluded pupil from the sixth day of any fixed period or permanent exclusion. Where alternative provision is made they should be marked using the appropriate attenandance code.’

Guidance on School Attendance, DfE, November 2013 (http://bit.ly/OeaFG7)

There should never be more than five days in a row of this mark because there is an obligation on schools and local authorities (LAs) to make alternative full-time provision for the pupil from the sixth day, even if the exclusion is continuing. From that point on, pupils should receive a Code B (or an absent mark if they don’t attend) relating to the nature of the alternative provision. Inspectors (or even the DfE via the Census) may pick up on long rows of Es and want to know what has happened. The attendance record is not therefore the official record of the exclusion. Schools’ IT systems should contain other ways of recording the exclusion data and the number of days involved.

The attendance register (which is essentially about the parent, not the pupil) must show what happened from the sixth day, even if the pupil was excluded at the same time. It is the record of the parent’s duty to ensure the pupil’s continued participation in education, not of their physical presence at the school. If the pupil is on an ‘internal exclusion’ – i.e. not attending their normal lessons but still expected to be at the school – the register should be marked in the usual way. This is not a formal exclusion.

With a permanent exclusion, the attendance register must be marked until the end of the process (i.e. until after all the required representation and review procedures) and the pupil can be removed from the registers only at that point. Once a fixed-period exclusion is over, the pupil must be allowed to return, even if parents have not attended a meeting or responded to letters, etc. Exclusions cannot be open-ended. If more information about the original cause comes to light, a fixed-period exclusion can be extended or even turned into a permanent exclusion, but there must be behavioural grounds on the part of the pupil, not of the parent, for doing this. A whole series of separate five-day periods can be used, up to the maximum of 45 in a school year; however, if the exclusion is continuous for more than five days, then some other full-time provision must be made, either away from the school or in a shared unit.

Code F: Agreed extended leave; no longer recommended

With the change of the regulations from September 2013, this code has disappeared from the DfE Guidance but that doesn’t mean that parents won’t still request it! Some longer trips abroad, in particular, are truly exceptional. Some pupils, especially those from certain ethnic minorities, will still leave the country with their family for considerable periods of time to visit relatives, etc. These are not just ‘holidays’. Code F was the mark for those who were kept on the admission register and their leave was authorised; it would now have to be Codes C or H (or G if the absence is not authorised).

However, if the absence is for more than four weeks, or if parents have not been able to say exactly when they will be returning, many schools will interpret the regulations as allowing them to remove the pupil from their admission register and avoid the absences altogether, as they have, in e?ect, ‘moved away’. The school may give a promise that a place will be made available again if they return, though some students may then have di?culty getting back into the same school if it is over-subscribed. Much depends on individual discretion and other schools may not follow the same procedures, despite the fact that this will increase their level of absence. Comparisons will then be made that could suggest that one school has less overall or persistent absence than another, or even less ‘truancy’. Clearly that may not be the case if the schools have simply used di?erent registration strategies in response to the same situation.

Code G: Holiday not authorised by the school or in excess of the period determined by the headteacher (unauthorised absent)

‘If a school does not authorise a leave of absence for the purpose of a holiday but the parents still take the pupil out of school, or the pupil is kept away for longer than was agreed, the absence is unauthorised. The regulations do not allow schools to give retrospective approval. If the parents did not apply for leave of absence in advance, the absence must be recorded as unauthorised’.

Guidance on School Attendance, DfE, November 2013 (http://bit.ly/OeaFG7)

In my view, this wording slightly overstates the regulation. In practice, headteachers can always use their discretion to authorise an absence, depending on the circumstances (new information may come to light; what about the ‘exceptional’ holiday that was booked before the pupil came to your school?), but they can certainly choose not to do so. This is one of only three codes that provide evidence of an offence by the parent, but traditionally the numbers have been extremely small. They are likely to become more common in future, although it entirely depends on the school’s response.

A holiday may be marked as G in its entirety if the school has a strict policy or if the leave wasn’t approved in advance for this particular pupil; alternatively, some parts of the leave may be approved and some not approved, or it may all be approved. That is a decision for the headteacher. However, the LA may take the view that just a few days’ unauthorised absence are not suffcient evidence for a prosecution or penalty notice (PN), so no legal action may be possible. The only sanction may be that they will now appear on the pupil’s record as unauthorised. A school may have delegated authority to issue a PN in such circumstances, but the same question will arise if the parents choose not to pay it.

If there are only a few Code Gs, and no additional unauthorised absences, the most likely response will be only a warning. Prosecutions have to meet the test of ‘reasonableness’ and be in the public interest. However, where Code Gs add to a wider picture, together with other unauthorised absences, they should be included in the possible evidence for legal proceedings.

Further information

Toolkit

Premium and Premium Plus subscribers can download these template documents from the Toolkit section:

About the author

Ben Whitney is an independent education welfare consultant and 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 September 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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