Attendance Codes - changes to DfE guidance
DfE released new guidance for Schools and Academies regarding Admissions and Attendance registers in advance of the 2013/14 academic year. The document that was released in the 2013/14 academic year called ‘School attendance, statutory guidance and departmental advice’ replaced the ‘Keeping Pupil Registers’ document and there are a few changes school colleagues should be aware of.
Previously Headteachers could authorise parents to take holidays during term time. These holidays would be recorded on code ‘H’ (Family holiday authorised by the school) for the first 10 days and code ‘F’ for the remainder (Extended family holiday authorised by the school), if the parent requested permission before going on holiday. If the parent did not ask for permission or the child was absent for longer than agreed, the sessions were recorded on code ‘G’ (Family holiday not authorised by the school or in excess of agreed period).
The new guidance shows that holiday is only to be granted in exceptional circumstances and that the Headteacher can determine the number of days the pupil(s) can be away from school. Any agreed sessions will continue to be recorded on code ‘H’ and from the beginning of this term code ‘F’ is not to be used. Code ‘F’ will still be available on SIMS until next term, but only so it can be used for absences for last term. Code ‘G’ remains available and its use has not changed.
Children in Custody
Any pupils who have been remanded in custody for less than 4 months should now have their absences recorded on code ‘Y’ (Unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances). However, if the school has evidence from the place of custody that the pupil is attending educational activities then they can record those sessions as code B (present at approved educational activity).
Payment of a Penalty Notice
Penalty notices are fines of £60/£120 imposed on parents. They are an alternative to the prosecution of parents for failing to ensure that their child of compulsory school age regularly attends the school where they are registered or at a place where alternative provision is provided.
The period a parent has to pay the fine has been reduced, so the fine is £60 if they pay within 21 days and rises to £120 if paid between 21 and 28 days. The parents can then be prosecuted if 28 days have expired and full payment has not been made.
There were several changes to Attendance Regulations in 2011 which are shown below for reference
- Code Y - (Unable to Attend due to Exceptional Circumstances)
The DfE amended the situations where this code could be used to include - "A local or national emergency has resulted in widespread disruption to travel which has prevented the pupil from attending school".
Headteachers should use their discretion about when to apply the Y code, while exercising that judgement within the parameters of the amended regulation. From September 2011 any sessions of absence reported on this code are collected in the School Census each term.
- Code D - (Dual Registered)
Previously, if pupils were dually registered at two or more schools, they were expected to share details of the pupil's absence. Schools are now only expected to record attendance details for the days they are due to attend and record the sessions the pupil attends the other school using Code D.
- Code # - (Planned closure)
This code is currently only available if the whole school is closed for a reason known in advance (e.g. school used as a polling station). A request for change has been submitted so that the code can be applied to partial school closure as well (e.g. staggered starts or induction days). This change has not as yet been implemented on SIMS.
Part time statutory aged pupils
Pupils are deemed to become statutory school aged at the beginning of the term after they become 5 years old. From this point pupils must be recorded as full time on the admissions register. If a pupil is placed on a part-time timetable in order to meet their individual needs, (for example due to a medical condition, as part of a re-integration package or as part of a flexi-schooling agreement.) the pupils is, by definition, not present at school for part of the week or day. The pupil is also not attending an approved educational activity and must therefore be absent. in agreeing to the part-time timetable the school has agreed to the absence and must record it as authorised. Schools cannot record the pupil as "not required to attend" or that the school was closed to the pupil in question as this would contravene the registration regulations.
Please note that persistent absence thresholds have now changed following the Secretary of State's decision to lower the threshold at which a pupil is deemed to be a persistent absentee from 20 per cent of possible sessions to 15 per cent of possible sessions. Some school tend to take action to intervene when pupils near the persistently absent threshold, but nearing 20 per cent was too late. It is hoped that lowering the threshold will help ensure that schools take action sooner to deal with absence.
Publication of School Absence Data: SFRs & 2011 Performance Tables
Absence data are collected termly at pupil level through the School Census and published on a termly basis at National and Local Authority level through the School Absence Statistical First Release (SFR). As from October 2011, the autumn term and spring term (combined) and the subsequent End Year (5 half terms) SFRs will contain absence data at school level.
Please note: The Performance Tables absence data checking exercise will no longer be taking place and schools will no longer be given the opportunity to suppress their absence data on the Performance Tables website. Consequently it is essential that schools ensure that this data is returned correctly in the termly School Census as this will be the data used by the Department for Education for publication.