Q. I have four pupils on the school roll who travelled abroad in December and have not returned. How do I code their absence, or can I remove them from roll?

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A. There are two elements to this question. One relates to the coding of a pupil’s absence and the other to removal from roll so I will address these separately. It is not possible to give advice on specific cases with limited detail so I would offer the following points.

1.   Coding

Regarding the pupil’s absence, how you code the register would depend on the information you know about the child’s circumstances, location and the impact of any Covid-19 restrictions. It is important to establish regular contact with the family. It may be that the pupil has been able to access remote learning throughout lockdown and members of staff have been able to have some direct contact with the child to establish they are safe and well.

However, it may be that you have had no contact, or that contact with the family has become infrequent or stopped. You may need to consider alternative ways of making contact (for example, email addresses or other emergency contacts). If there are any safeguarding concerns, make a referral to CME if you are unable to contact the family.

If the family is unable to travel due to flight disruption, cancellation or delays directly caused by the pandemic and can provide supporting evidence, you are able to ‘Y’ code the absence. If the parent or child has been unable to travel due to a positive Covid-19 test and is having to self-isolate in another country, it may be appropriate to use the ‘X’ code and continue with remote access (for the isolation period only).

If the family is unable or reluctant to travel due to the pandemic, costs associated with red list countries, implications of needing to quarantine or other rationale, then it would be at the headteacher’s discretion whether to authorise the absence (‘C’ code) or to unauthorise as Leave of absence (LOA) (‘G’ code). This may also depend on the outcome of any previous LOA request decisions for the original LOA. 

It is also important to note that there may be changes to legislation around travel and requirements that relate to particular countries, so this needs to be kept under review and coding changed accordingly.

2.   Removal from roll

On the second point regarding removal from roll, there are 15 specific criteria detailed in the statutory Pupil Registration Regulations as to when a child can be removed from the attendance and admissions register. You can only legally remove a child from the attendance and admissions register if one of these are met. There are two criteria that may be met in the circumstances you have detailed, meaning that you can remove the child from roll. However, there will be many scenarios that do not meet these criteria, and in which case, the child should remain on roll and school should continue to record the absence and try to secure attendance.

In some circumstances, regulation 8(1)(f) may apply:

‘In the case of a pupil granted leave of absence in accordance with regulation 7(1A) that

(i)   The pupil has failed to attend the school within the 10 days immediately following the expiry of a period for which the leave was granted;

(ii)  The proprietor does not have reasonable grounds to believe the child is unable to attend the school by reason of sickness or other unavoidable cause; and

(iii) The proprietor and the local authority have failed, after jointly making enquiries to ascertain where the pupil is.’

Under 8(1)(f), all three criteria need to be met, including that after all reasonable joint enquiries, we have been unable to ascertain where the pupil is. This would not apply if parents are in contact and the whereabouts of the child is known.

In certain circumstances 8(1)(e) may apply:

‘except in the case of a boarder, that he has ceased to attend the school and no longer ordinarily resides at a place which is a reasonable distance from the school at which he is registered’.

This would not apply if the family are stating that their return is delayed and they will return, as in this case, they remain ordinarily resident at their home address (which is a reasonable distance from the school).

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Joanne Sierzega

Joanne Sierzega worked for almost 16 years in local authority education welfare. Since then she has established CSAWS (Central School Attendance and Welfare Services Ltd) with two partners. CSAWS comprises a team of education welfare officers who are committed to achieving better outcomes for children by securing regular attendance at school.

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