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Absenteeism - Concerns and impact

Persistent Absence Concerns – November 2021


Every day missed at school reduces your child’s life chances


In 2019, of those children not meeting SAT test standards at our school, 87% were persistent absentees or had been at some stage in their school life.


In 2018, Ashgate school was graded as Good by Ofsted.  However, you may recall that the only grade that was below ‘Good’ was singularly related to the number of persistent absentees (children with less than 90% attendance) at the school.  OFSTED highlighted that: 

‘Too many pupils, particularly those who are disadvantaged, continue to be absent from school or are frequently late’ (Ofsted 2018)’.

I shared at the time my frustration that too many families do not understand the link between non-attendance/lack of punctuality and under performance (low test results / outcomes).


FACT: Persistent absenteeism (missing 1 day or more in two weeks) nationally, and at our school, is the single most avoidable reason for under performance.  An overwhelming number of children whose attendance is  below 90%  fail academically at primary school, are significantly more likely to leave secondary school without good GCSEs,  be involved in crime as teenager or receive a custodial (prison sentence) as an adult.


Are we getting better?

Despite initial improvements, recent records highlight another spike in the number of pupils who are considered persistent absentees.  As a result my team are in the process of updating the Local Authority Educational Welfare Officer who will take actions in line with DfE requirements.  This can include fixed penalty notices (fines issued by court) and /or summands to court.


(Note: This spike in persistent absenteeism IS NOT related to Covid absences which have been discounted)


Should I be worried if I receive an Attendance Matters/Warning Letter?

Simply put – YES, you should be worried about your child’s education and the wider impact this is having on their chances in life. Parents will soon be issued with persistent absence warning notices and if you receive one:

  • You may receive a fixed penalty notice of between £250 and £2500 (per child) if improvements are not ‘significant and sustained’ or if a charge is not paid to the council promptly.
  • Your child has missed at least 1 in 10 days at school (Autumn term alone to date: this equates to at least 22 and a half less maths and English lessons than children who always attend.
  • Failure to improve now is highly likely to make your child a statistic confirming failed outcomes linked to absence.
  • The Local Authority Welfare officer is aware of concerns linked to your child.

Food for thought - If the school were to offer an additional 10% (or more) of lessons for your child, this would have a huge impact on their outcomes. 

The bottom line is that this is offered to all persistent absentees, you simply have to turn up, on time, and every day.


Frequently Asked Questions:


They are only children; does it really matter?

YES! The fact is that children who attend school for less than 95% of the time underperform significantly and have ominously reduced lifetime opportunities. It is not good enough to send your child to a good school or be graded a ‘Good School’ if absenteeism impacts on achievement. Schools with poor attendance and diminished outcomes do not remain ‘Good’.


But my child has been ill and I have told you this?

Absence is absence, and impacts on a child’s learning and wellbeing, regardless of the reason. This is clear in the actions taken under national policy. Whilst I have utter respect for parents who state that absence has been a result of specific unavoidable illness, this does not negate the fact that their child has been impacted by it, or that the policy applies to all. A child, who is absent due to intermittent illness, has missed the same amount of time as a child who has been absent as a result of a parent’s failure to bring them to school for unauthorised reasons. 


To be clear, under policy and in reality, absence through illness has the same impact as absence for any other reason and as such is included in your child’s absence figures. This is a national requirement.


So, are you saying you want me to bring my child into school when they are ill?

No. But I do ask parents to consider carefully if absence is really necessary. We are not medical practitioners and cannot make decisions on behalf of health professionals, or indeed parents – the choice is yours.


I cannot afford a fine, how will I pay the school?

Firstly, fines are not issued by, or paid to the school – despite what you may have read on social media or in popular press. The courts issue fines and the revenue is taken by them. If you cannot pay a fine, this is a matter for the courts and is dealt with in line with any other unpaid debts to the Crown. The school has no say in this.


I will not pay the fine, what can they do to me?

Simply put, the fine increases to up to £2500. If you continue not to pay, you can get up to a 3 month prison sentence.


I did not realise this and I have received a letter re my child’s absence. What can I do?

Ashgate Primary School is here to help you when and where we can. 

  • The first step is to attend the meeting and work with the school. This will be your chance to seek support if there are underlying reasons for the absences. Whilst we cannot act on your behalf, we can point you in the right direction and look to see if there is anything we can do to help.
  • Recognise that there is an issue, and do all you can to reverse any absence trends. This may be easier said than done, but it cannot be ignored for your child’s sake. It is never too late.
  • Act promptly if you receive notices, attendance letters and/or court notices. They will not go away.


Remember -every day missed at school reduces your child’s life chances.