Why Attendance Matters
Benefits of school attendance
Good attendance at school is not just valuable, it’s essential. Going to school is directly linked to improved exam performance which should in turn lead to further learning opportunities and better job prospects. As well as this, going to school helps to develop:
Absence from school
All schools must record details of pupils’ attendance and absence at school. They do this at the beginning of morning and afternoon sessions meaning that each day your child receives two half day marks.
If your child is going to be absent from school, for example for an unavoidable appointment, then you should let the school know as soon as possible. If your child has been absent due to an unexpected event such as bereavement or illness then you must also let the school know on the first day of absence in line with the school’s attendance policy.
The school will then record the absence. If you fail to tell the school as to why your child has not been present then the school may record that period of absence as being unauthorised.
The Education Welfare Service (EWS) has access to all attendance information for each pupil and if your child is missing school without good reason, schools and the EA have the authority to find out why.
Attendance in figures
Schools will advise parents of a child's attendance levels at least once a year. This will usually include a percentage attendance figure.
Achieving 90 per cent in an exam or test is a fantastic result but if your child is at school for only 90 per cent of the school year then they will have missed 19 days - almost four whole weeks of school.
For primary-age children, this can mean almost 120 guided learning hours. This is a big gap for any child to make up.
If your child is a pupil at post-primary school, 120 guided learning hours is the same as studying one full-time GCSE (normally taken over two years).
Your legal responsibilities as a parent
By law, all children of school age (aged four to sixteen) must receive a suitable full-time education. For most parents, this means registering your child at a school or you may choose to make other arrangements to provide a suitable, full-time education.
Once your child is registered at a school, you are legally responsible for making sure they go regularly.
The Education Authority (EA) is responsible for investigating if they believe your child is not getting the education they are entitled to.
How to prevent your child from missing school
You can help prevent your child missing school by:
having a routine from an early age and sticking it to it
making sure your child understands the importance of good attendance and punctuality
making sure they understand the possible implications for themselves and you as a parent if they don't go to school
taking an interest in their education - ask about school work and encourage them to get involved in school activities
discussing any problems they may have at school and letting their teacher or principal know about anything that is causing concern
not letting them take time off school for minor ailments or holidays during term time
To avoid disrupting your child's education, you should arrange (as far as possible), appointments and outings:
after school hours
during school holidays
Term time holidays
Term time holidays have been increasing over the last number of years. Parents should make every effort to make sure that their child does not miss school due to holiday plans. Schools are not obliged to agree to you taking your child on holiday during term time. They are entitled to record such holidays as being an unauthorised absence.
Problems affecting school attendance
A child’s school attendance can be affected if there are problems with:
housing or care arrangements
transport to and from school
work and money
other problems within the home environment
If your child starts missing school, you might not know there is a problem. When you find out, ask your child and then approach their teacher or form tutor.
Support for parents
As a parent, if you find it hard to talk to your child about their attendance at school or other school-related matters, support is available.
Support from your child's school
Your child’s school should have an attendance policy in place and made available to you, normally from the school website. As a parent or guardian, you should make sure that you adhere to the guidance provided in that policy about attendance and notifying absence.
Your child’s school is the first place to discuss any attendance problems. The school should try to agree a plan with you to improve your child’s attendance.
A school can refer your child to the Education Welfare Service (EWS) if they feel there is reason to be concerned at their level of attendance. The EWS is a specialist education support service which helps young people of school age and their families to get the best out of the education system. The EWS can offer advice and support to help you and your child to have good attendance at school.