Attendance

 

 

Some children may not be able to attend school for health reasons, for long term or intermittent periods.

For children with SEND, anxiety or sensory overload are common factors affecting attendance, which are sometimes not immediately identified. If you think there may be underlying needs affecting your child's attendance, discuss and explore with school how these might be supported.

Browse through our dropdowns below to find out what you can expect in different circumstances.


The government guidance 'Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions' says

Governing bodies should ensure that school leaders consult health and social care professionals, pupils and parents to ensure that the needs of children with medical conditions are properly understood and effectively supported. (Key points, page 4)

Individual Healthcare Plans (not to be confused with Education, Health and Care or EHC plans!)

For children with complex health needs.

  • An individual plan may not be appropriate for your child. Talk to school if you are not sure.
  • An Individual healthcare plan will help a school to effectively plan what your child needs, and can provide reassurance about the support plan ie. who will do what, and when.
  • You will be able to share your views and those of your child. Let school know of any changes to your childs needs so the plan can be amended
  • This plan can also include your child's Special Educational Needs (where an EHC plan is not in place).
  • Though school will be responsible for finalising and maintaining the plan, healthcare and social care or other professionals should be involved in the process
  • The guidance for schools includes a helpful flowchart of what the process should look like:

 

Watch our video presentation exploring how children with medical conditions may be supported in education:

 

Children of compulsory school age have the right to a full-time education, and reduced timetables are unlawful (unless following medical opinion that this would be in the child's best interests).

A reduced timetable can be an effective temporary measure to support some children. There should be a plan to support an increase to full-time, regular reviews and only with parental agreement and involvement of appropriate services.

If you are feeling pressured to accept a reduced timetable talk to school about whether there are other possible support options, for example...

*The 'In Year Fair Access Panel' or 'IYFAP' process is where schools can seek alternative provision and support for vulnerable learners.  Vulnerable learners are not only those who exhibit challenging behaviour, but also students who may have health needs. You can contact the local authority if you would like to know more about the process.

 

 

Sometimes a child's anxiety prevents attendance at school - and this is sometimes referred to as 'school-refusal'.

Here a few commonly used support strategies to help with anxiety about school:

  • asking your child to tell you what would need to change for them to feel happier about school - this can help identify specific worries
  • meet and greet by a trusted member of staff at the start (sometimes during or at the end) of the day
  • adult-led approaches - checking in with a child that they are okay
  • positive rewards (for getting through a lesson - instead of sanctions for challenging behaviour)
  • time-out card for when a child feels overwhelmed in lessons
  • allowing a child to learn away from the classroom, in a dedicated area or room sometimes known as a 'safe space'
  • small group interventions or support programmes
  • school counselling

You can speak to a school nurse or your child's GP for advice, recommendations or a possible referral to specialist services. Share this information with school so they have the full picture, and you can discuss next steps together.

Talk to school about whether there are other options, for example...

*The 'In Year Fair Access Panel' or 'IYFAP' process is where schools can seek alternative provision and support for vulnerable learners.  Vulnerable learners are not only those who exhibit challenging behaviour, but also students who may have health needs.

Alternative provision

This term is used to describe the education arrangements made for excluded pupils to continue to have a suitable, full-time education whilst they are excluded from school or cannot attend school for another reason. 

In some circumstances, alternative provision can be used where a child has not been excluded, including alongside mainstream or special education, where there are medical needs.

Read the government guidance around Alternative Provision

You can also contact the local authority directly with any questions or concerns relating to 'IYFAP' or alternative provision. 

The Suffolk County Council Inclusion Service & how to contact them.

Take a look at this online directory of alternative provision (via the Suffolk local offer).

If your child is unable to attend school, there will be alternatives available from the local authority - this is known as 'education other than at school (or EOTAS)'.

Alternative provision

This term is used to describe the education arrangements made for pupils to continue to have a suitable, full-time education whilst they are excluded from school or cannot attend school for another reason. 

Read the government guidance around Alternative Provision

You can also contact the local authority directly with any questions or concerns relating to alternative provision. 

The Suffolk County Council Inclusion Service & how to contact them.

Take a look at this online directory of alternative provision (via the Suffolk local offer).

The Department for Education health needs guidance says:

...Local Authorities (LA's) should ensure that it is arranged as quickly as possible and that it appropriately meets the needs of the child. LAs should make every effort to minimise the disruption to a child’s education. For example, where specific medical evidence, such as that provided by a medical consultant, is not quickly available, LAs should consider liaising with other medical professionals, such as the child’s GP, and consider looking at other evidence to ensure minimal delay in arranging appropriate provision for the child. (Page 8)

 

Watch our video presentation which explains arrangements for education:

If your child is too unwell, or refusing, to attend a school named in an Education, Health and Care plan you could contact the local authority to request an early annual review.

Annual reviews provide the opportunity to update circumstances, discuss progress being made towards outcomes, and ask for any amendments you would like to make to the plan. 

You will also have an opportunity to request a particular school to be named, where the local authority decide to amend the plan following review. 

A Head Teacher or the local authority may issue a penalty notice for unauthorised absence.

Read more about Suffolk School Attendance Penalty Notices 

If you believe you have been incorrectly issued with a penalty notice you should raise your concerns with Governing body.

If you believe school are recording illness as 'unauthorised absence' it might be helpful to look at the following guidance:

The Department for Education guidance to schools around recording attendance says:

 

schools should authorise absences due to illness unless they have genuine cause for concern about the veracity of an illness.

schools can request parents to provide medical evidence to support illness.

Schools can record the absence as unauthorised if not satisfied of the authenticity of the illness but should advise parents of their intention.

Schools are advised not to request medical evidence unnecessarily. Medical evidence can take the form of prescriptions, appointment cards, etc. rather than doctors’ notes. (Code I illness, page 11)