Q. Is it true that the attendance records of Reception year 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 until 18.

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A. Because most children start school well before age 5, there still seems to be considerable confusion about this, and about sixth formers.

Reception year data is now collected by the DfE through the Census but is published on a school-by-school basis for Years 1–11 only. 

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 from the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday. 

So far, the level of absence in Reception seems to be about the same as Year 1, 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 and parents are free to take leave or make only part-time provision if they wish.

So are their children ‘absent’ on the sessions they miss or ‘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 Year 11 there has been no extension of compulsory school age or of parents’ legal duty, so these pupils are also ex-cluded from the published data. As with those below compulsory age, there can be no unauthorised absence at this point. Schools and colleges with sixth forms may have attendance expectations and use individual contracts, but there can be no action taken by the local authority in response to any absences.

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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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