Worried about your child being off from school?

Illness and absence

Children sometimes get ill. Parents may feel the need to keep their children off from school. It’s always good to check with your school to be fully informed about what to do should you feel your child needs to be absent.

NHS advice might help you decide whether your child is too ill to attend school – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/is-my-child-too-ill-for-school/

Tips about absence
  • Make sure you have read your school’s Attendance Policy.
  • Contact the school on the first day of the absence and discuss the circumstances with them. From your discussion you should 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, 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 e.g. from your GP. Update your school about this as appropriate.
  • Providing medical information to schools helps them understand the nature of the illness and will give an idea as to how the long the child is likely to be absent. It also consideration about potential support needs for children.
  • If absent from school, make sure you understand what learning has been missed to see if it is possible for your child to catch up with their 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

When developing policies schools should ensure compliance 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. If genuinely sick, their absence is likely to be treated as authorised.

The Department for Education is clear that schools should authorise absences due to illness unless they have genuine cause for concern about children’s illnesses.

If the authenticity of the illness is in doubt, schools can request parents provide medical information to them about the child’s absence. The information will need to be obtained from a suitable medical professional, be in relation to the child in question, that it should be current, and that it should provide a description about the illness. This should stipulate that the illness warrants the child being absent from school and for how long.

Such information enables greater understanding about the illness and helps schools consider whether any support is required in relation to the illness.

Authorising absence

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.

Duty of care

School’s operate in loco parentis (‘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; depending upon the circumstances, 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 from 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.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/head-lice-and-nits/

Further information:

Department for Education – school attendance and absence https://www.gov.uk/school-attendance-absence

Guidance on infection control in schools and other childcare settings:

https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/Guidance_on_infection_control_in%20schools_poster.pdf

Children with medical conditions:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/education-for-children-with-health-needs-who-cannot-attend-school

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/supporting-pupils-at-school-with-medical-conditions–3