Q. Is it true that the attendance records of reception years and sixth-formers are not included in our school’s data? I thought they were all included in the Census and attendance is compulsory now till 18


A. Because most children start school well before the age of five, there seems to be considerable confusion about this.

The attendance data collected by the DfE through the Census is only published on a school-by-school basis for NCYs 1-11, so you are right in saying that your school’s official attendance only relates to these year groups (Y11 only up to the end of May, the rest up to July; not just five half-terms as before). This is because all the children in these year groups are of compulsory school age at the start of the school year. However, most children gradually become of compulsory school age during the previous year (at the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday) – i.e. during reception year. Their parents must ensure they are educated full-time from this point, but their attendance and absence is still not included in the school’s data until the start of Y1.

The DfE has started collecting data on reception year absence but it is not currently part of the published figures. The level of absence seems to be about the same as Y1 but there is some doubt about how the figures have been recorded. Children need not be in school full-time if they are not yet of compulsory age. There can be no ‘unauthorised’ absence at this point and parents are free to take ‘leave’ or make only part-time provision if they wish. But are their children ‘absent’ on the sessions they miss or just ‘not required to attend’ and therefore discounted from the data? Schools with reception years may well be recording the same situation in different ways, which makes comparisons somewhat unreliable.

Beyond Y11 there has been no extension of ‘compulsory school age’ or of parents’ legal duty, so these pupils are also excluded from the published data. Again, there can be no ‘unauthorised’ absence at this point. The ‘expectation of participation’ is just that; it is not a legal obligation on either student or parent, and there is no power of enforcement if they do not come as expected. This needs to be clear when approaching any attendance issues. Schools and colleges with sixth-forms may have attendance requirements and agree contracts, but there can be no action taken by the LA in response to any absences.


First published on this website in December 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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