Q. There are a number of online learning providers offering distance learning to schools as ways of preventing exclusions or as part of re-integration packages. Schools have suggested that they have been informed by those providers and by some Ofsted inspectors that they can mark the school register as ‘B’ for those sessions provided by online learners. Could you clarify if this is an acceptable mark, bearing in mind the DfE guidance that says pupils should not be marked ‘B’ where pupils are at home doing school work?

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A. The current legal regulations that govern the marking of the attendance register relate to physical attendance. A child can only be marked present if they are in physical attendance. A ‘B’ code is a present mark and is to be used where a child is in physical attendance at an alternative provider. This alternative provision must have been approved by the school and the activity must be supervised.

The school needs to ensure that appropriate safeguarding measures are in place (i.e. they remain responsible for that child’s safeguarding). The guidance does not specify that this supervision must be physical but, as all attendance legislation and guidance relates to physical attendance (not remote), I believe that physical supervision is what is being referred to.

There have certainly been developments in how the curriculum may be delivered, including remote access to learning and online packages/providers and this has been accelerated in recent times. The guidance for schools during the lockdown period where remote access to education had to be offered to all children not in attendance has been very clear that this should not be recorded in the official registers as an attendance (it should be ‘X’ coded) (and will continue to be offered for pupils who cannot attend due to legislation or guidance regarding Covid-19).

I would advise that, at this time, the ‘B’ code should not be used unless there is physical attendance and supervision by someone approved by the school. I do understand that this is an area of policy and legislation that will be looked at nationally moving forward, considering the developments.

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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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