Q. What do we code a child who attends school but has to go home due to his ADHD behaviours? We also have other students who can’t cope with attending school all day due to their mental health and need to be sent home. Should we use the ‘C’ code for these students or should we code them as ‘I’ for illness?


A.  To answer this, I would need to understand if these children have been placed on a reduced timetable or what additional support and assessments are in place. For now, I have included guidance on three areas that would impact on the decision regarding coding.

Reduced timetable

All pupils are entitled to receive a full-time education but there are occasions when, to support a child or young person’s attendance at school, it may mean using a reduced or part-time timetable. This might be in the case of meeting medical or special educational needs, reducing levels of anxiety, or to reintegrate from absence.

Use of reduced-hours timetables must always be in the pupil’s best interests. They should only be used as part of a clear action plan based on specialist advice, alongside other interventions.

Reduced-hour timetables should always be a short-term intervention and are not a long-term solution. The plan for the pupil, including the reduced timetable, must be reviewed regularly. Any reduced timetable and reviews should be documented and some local authorities will have written protocols or guidance that you should utilise.

Registers should be marked appropriately with the ‘Other authorised’ code (‘C’ code) for sessions the child/pupil is not expected to attend (‘X’ code for non-statutory school-age pupils) and the relevant attendance or absence code for all other sessions.

For example, if a pupil is expected to attend in the morning every day, they should be marked as present (‘/’) if in attendance, and ‘Other authorised’ (‘C’ code) in the afternoon (‘X’ is not statutory school age). If the pupil is unwell and school accepted the reason for absence, the register would be coded ‘Illness’ (‘I’) in the morning and ‘Other authorised’ (‘C’ code) in the afternoon.

Remember that a pupil can only be marked present if they are present for the relevant registration period (morning and afternoon). If a pupil is not expected to attend at the registration time, you will have to mark them as late or absent depending on your close of register time.

If a pupil attends school during the morning or afternoon session (but after the registration period), they would be signed into school at the office using the relevant school system but their registration mark for that session would not be a present mark. If setting up a reduced timetable, the times chosen should be because they are in the best interests of meeting the pupil’s needs.


If a pupil has been sent home due to behaviour, then this should be treated as an exclusion from school and coded appropriately. DfE guidance identifies that:

‘Disruptive behaviour can be an indication of unmet needs. Where a school has concerns about a pupil’s behaviour, it should try to identify whether there are any causal factors and intervene early in order to reduce the need for a subsequent exclusion. In this situation, schools should consider whether a multi-agency assessment that goes beyond the pupil’s educational needs is required.’

‘Informal’ or ‘unofficial’ exclusions, such as sending a pupil home ‘to cool off’ are unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers. Any exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be formally recorded.

Where provision has been made and the pupil attends it, an appropriate attendance code should be used, such as:

Code D (if the alternative provision is at a PRU or independent school where the pupil is dual registered)

Code B (if the provision is an approved educational activity that does not involve the pupil being registered at any other school).

Where pupils are not attending alternative provision, they should be marked absent using Code E.


There isn’t specific guidance or a separate code for recording absence due to mental health/mental ill health. Any illness should be coded using the ‘I’ code unless there is reason to consider the veracity of the illness. With any long-term health need, you would be seeking advice from other professionals and putting into place appropriate multi-agency plans and interventions.

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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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