The A-Z of codes 6: Codes S and T


This series of handy reference guides, written by Ben Whitney, will explore each of the recommended Codes in detail, including:

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

In the sixth article in this series, find out about the marks for authorised absence for Codes S and T: study leave, and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller absence.

Code S: Study leave (authorised absent)

Schools must record study leave as authorised absence. Study leave should be used sparingly and only granted to Year 11 pupils during public examinations. Provision should still be made available for those pupils who want to continue to come into school to revise.

(from School Attendance: Departmental Advice;

In the light of the DfE guidance quoted above, there should be no room for misunderstanding; however, not all secondary schools seem to have recognised its implications, or they have chosen not to do so! But study leave is essentially an outmoded concept for a modern system, which is now much more focused on ensuring the best outcomes for every pupil. It is an absence, and not an ‘approved educational activity’, because you cannot be sure the pupil is actually studying and the school is not directly supervising what they may be doing.

It can only be used in Y11 ‘during public examinations’ (i.e. not during ‘mocks’ or for periods before or after the examinations) and even then it should be used ‘sparingly’. It can only be offered as an option; if pupils wish to be in school revising (or presumably if their parents request it for them), provision must still be made available. The intention is clear: study leave should be used as little as possible, if at all. Children are best prepared for their examinations by being in school and engaging in supervised learning. Only on the sessions when they do not have an exam to take could it be granted – and even then it is probably better if they are doing supervised revision at school rather than seeing it as an afternoon off!

Many schools have already embraced all these expectations. But it is also important to remember that compulsory school age does not end until the last Friday in June and registers must be marked for every session and for every pupil until then. Study leave cannot be justified if there is nothing left for which to study. Any time remaining after the examinations is best used for short courses, work experience and sixth-form preparation etc., in order to encourage the ‘expectation of participation’ beyond the compulsory period.

Just because the Census does not publish Y11 attendance data beyond the end of May does not mean that this time no longer counts. If ever it were published, every pupil would be a ‘persistent absentee’ unless this issue is addressed. This now seems something of a wasted opportunity and no longer reflects the priority given to ensuring both effective outcomes at Y11 and a smooth transition into other forms of post-16 education. This is especially important for those taking few or even no public examinations. How many ‘NEETS’ (those not in employment, education or training) have effectively abandoned their education by Easter? Study leave, for them in particular, only reinforces such low expectations.

Code: Code T: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller absence (authorised absent)

A number of different groups are covered by the generic term ‘Traveller’ – Roma, English and Welsh Gypsies, Irish and Scottish Travellers, Showmen (fairground people) and Circus people, Bargees (occupational boat dwellers) and New Travellers. This code should be used when Traveller families are known to be travelling for occupational purposes and have agreed this with the school but where it is not known whether the pupil is attending educational provision. It should not be used for any other types of absence by these groups.

To help ensure continuity of education for Traveller children, it is expected that the child should attend school elsewhere when their family is travelling and be dual registered at that school and the main school. Children from these groups whose families do not travel are expected to register at a school and attend as normal. They are subject to the same rules as other children in terms of the requirement to attend school regularly once registered at a school.

(from School Attendance: Departmental Advice;

These children are amongst the most disadvantaged of all groups and every effort should be made to keep them involved in supervised learning. This can be very problematic if the whole family moves, or just the child changes address, without prior consultation with their school. Ideally they will be enrolled in another school, if only temporarily, and the ‘home’ school informed. In this case, the ‘home’ school can mark them with a D (discounted) while the new school records their actual attendance and absence. However, this may not always be possible.

There are now far fewer Traveller Support Services than used to be the case, which has made communication across the country much more difficult, especially where families keep moving. As the guidance says, this mark is intended for use where it has been agreed that the child has currently left the area but is expected back. This keeps a school place open for them and reduces the risk of them becoming a child who is missing education. However, this also results in a large number of authorised absences. (Absences should not be authorised just because the child is a member of a traveller or similar community and is still known to be living at the same address but not attending – that is unauthorised absence and should be treated in the usual way).

Schools do have the right to remove a child from the admission register if they have been continuously unauthorised absent for four weeks and they cannot be located. In these cases, however, such an action should only be taken after consultation with the local authority and where the child’s location cannot be established.


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

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 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

First published on this website in June 2015.

This article is only available to Premium Plus subscribers
Please login or subscribe to read the whole article.
Share this post:

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

Comments are closed.