Why attending school is important

Attending school is important for children’s educational progress, wellbeing and wider development.


Parents have a duty to secure education of compulsory school age. This is cause them to receive efficient full-time education suitable to their – a) age, ability and aptitude; b) to any special educational needs they may have. This is by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

For more information see – Section 7, Education Act 1996

Regular Attendance

Parents have a legal duty to ensure their children (if they are of compulsory school age) regularly attend school.

School attendance has been mandatory since the beginning of the new academic year 2020-2021.

Local authorities have a range of powers to enforce attendance if a child or young person misses school without a valid reason.

For more information see – Section 444, Education Act 1996.

Self-isolation and shielding

Some children and young people may be unable to attend school in line with public health advice because they:

  • are self-isolating;
  • have had symptoms or a positive test result themselves;
  • they are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19.

If children are unable to attend school for these reasons, schools may provide support for remote education.

Shielding advice for adults and children was paused from 1 August 2020.  This means that children and young people can attend school if they:

  • Are on the shielded patient list;
  • Have family members who are shielding.
Extremely vulnerable

Parents of children and young people under the care of a specialist health professional may need to discuss their care with health professionals in respect of attending school.

Information about this, including advice about not attending school because of children’s vulnerability, can be shared with schools.  This will help understand the child or young person’s circumstances enabling planning about their education (e.g. remote learning), health wellbeing and wider development.

If children are not able to attend school because they are following clinical and/or public health advice, parents will not be penalised.

For information, advice and guidance on protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable see – COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable

If you feel your child should not be attending school because of coronavirus (COVID-19), due to self-isolation or shielding, then you will need to discuss this with your school in respect of making alternative arrangements about their education, wellbeing and wider development.

For guidance on when to send children to school see below flowchart (pdf)

Click to download

Further information