Q. We were expecting a child in reception to start on 4 September but when they did not arrive, we contacted the parents and they informed us that, as their child isn’t yet five, they are not taking up the place. The child is five in February, so how should we code their absence?


A.  As you have already done, it is important to establish contact with the child’s parents to ascertain the reason for any absence from school. The child in question isn’t yet of statutory school age and won’t be until the term after their fifth birthday which, in this case, is the Summer term. This means the parents do not need to take up the school place at this time. 

I would advise exploring with the parents the reasons for their decision, in case they have any worries or concerns that you can alleviate or there is a way to secure the child’s attendance. 

If the parents still decide that they do not wish to take up a school place, I would advise them that their child will be removed from the school roll, and they will need to reapply when their child is of statutory school age and they wish to take up the place. I would make them aware that you can’t guarantee anything and may not have a school place at this time. It is advisable to
request parents to confirm this in writing for your own records. 

The ‘Children Missing Education’ legislation and pupil regulations regarding removing children from roll only apply to children of statutory school age but you should still follow local authority (LA) guidance for notifying the LA of a removal from the school roll. As with any removal from roll, you should also consider if there are any other agencies involved who need to be advised of any safeguarding concerns that need to be followed up.

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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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