Illness and absence
Children may become ill and parents may feel the need to keep their children off from school. Before doing so we recommend asking the following:
- Is your child well enough to take part in school activities?
- Is your child’s illness likely to be passed onto other children or school staff?
It’s always good to check with your school in advance of any possible illness, so you are fully informed about what to do should you feel your child needs to be absent from school.
Our tips about absence:
- Make sure you have read your child’s school Attendance Policy.
- Contact the school on the first day of the absence and discuss circumstances with them, as a result you will be clear about whether to keep your child off. Do this before 09:30 or concerns could develop.
- If it’s agreed to keep your child off from school keep your child’s school up to date about the situation, especially if the absence is likely to be longer than you first expected.
- If your child’s illness is prolonged seek medical attention and advice as appropriate.
- If absent from school, make sure you understand what your child has missed with their learning, see if it is possible to catch up with this work.
- If making appointments (medical or dental), make every attempt to arrange these outside of school hours to avoid missing learning.
Requests for medical information
Schools should only normally ask parents to provide medical information if they suspect the illness is not genuine and the parent is not meeting their parental responsibility to ensure their child regularly attends school.
When developing policies schools should ensure they are compliant with regulations. The contents and maintenance of the school attendance register is governed by the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006. These regulations set out if a pupil is unable to attend school by reason of sickness their absence will be treated as authorised.
The Department for Education is clear that schools should authorise absences due to illness unless schools have genuine cause for concern about the genuineness of an illness. If the authenticity of illness is in doubt, schools can request parents to provide medical information to support illness.
Providing medical information does not give automatic authorisation for the child to be absent from school, in law it is only the Head Teacher that can authorise an absence. If the Head Teacher doubts reasons given, they have not heard from parents about the absence, or the child is frequently absent from school, they may not authorise the absence. In these circumstances the absence is likely to be recorded as unauthorised (code O), which could lead to legal action.
A ‘duty of care’
School’s operate in loco parentis (in a ‘position of a parent’), if they haven’t heard from parents or they’ve been unable to contact them, they have a responsibility to act in the interests of the child’s safety and wellbeing; they may refer the matter to children’s social care.
Children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)
Some children with a disability or health condition may have lengthy or repeated periods off from school e.g. due to surgery, treatment, or because of an impaired immune system. Mental health conditions may also be a reason for lengthy and recurrent absences. If your child has one or several of these health needs it is most likely that your school is aware of their specific health needs and are supporting these e.g. through an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. For information about support for children with medical conditions see below.
Head lice and nits
There’s nothing you can do to prevent head lice, so there’s no need for children to stay off school. You can help stop them spreading by wet or dry combing regularly to catch them early. Find out from the NHS how to get rid of them.
Department for Education – school attendance and absence https://www.gov.uk/school-attendance-absence
NHS – too ill for school? https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/is-my-child-too-ill-for-school/
Guidance on infection control in schools and other childcare settings:
Children with medical conditions: