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School attendance and absence


We place a high priority on good school attendance and take absence seriously.

We want to take further positive steps to ensure children in County Durham get the very best out of their education by attending school all year round. Help us understand any barriers that children face in attending school and what extra support might be helpful.

Complete the survey on our Have your say - promoting attendance at school page.

Why school attendance is important

Children who attend school regularly are much more likely to achieve positive outcomes both during their childhood and later in life. Being in school, around friends and teachers plays a big part in children's wellbeing and their wider development. We want all children to thrive throughout their lives and attending school to learn and develop socially is an important part of achieving this.

Did you know

One full school year at 90% attendance is the equivalent of four weeks of learning missed! Over five years of school, this adds up to half a school year missed. This is known as persistent absence.

Top tips to support attendance

  • Get into good routines: start the year right and make attendance a priority.
  • Take a proactive interest in school and education by going to parent's meetings and other school events.
  • Talk about school at home - ask your child what they're learning, how their friends are and how they're getting on. Encourage them to tell you about the good and the bad!
  • Don't let your child take time off school for minor illnesses, particularly those that would not stop you from going to work.
  • Take family holidays during school holiday time only. 

Support to help your child attend school

If you think or know that your child is having any difficulties, talk to your school about how they can help you and your child.

Some general advice is available at Children's Commissioner - Guidance for parents on school attendance.

There is lots of support available locally that schools and the council can help you to access. Some links you may find useful are:

Leave of absence and exceptional circumstances

Headteachers cannot grant leave during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. Schools must look at each application individually before they make a decision.

Parents are advised to book leave during school holiday periods. Should there be an exceptional circumstance, parents and carers should apply in advance as a school cannot grant a leave of absence retrospectively.

Generally, a need or desire for a holiday or other absence for the purpose of leisure and recreation would not be an exceptional circumstance. See our Holidays in term time page.

Changes to Fixed Penalty Notices from August 2024

In the majority of cases, schools and councils will try and provide support to help you improve your child's attendance first, but if this is not working to resolve the issues or if support is not appropriate (unauthorised term time holiday), parents and carers may be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice.

Under the new national framework, Fixed Penalty Notices will be considered when a child has missed ten or more sessions (five days) for unauthorised reasons in a period of ten school weeks. A notice may also be issued where the five day level of absence has not been reached, for example, if there are several periods of leave.

Notices will be issued in line with the Local Code of Conduct -  Penalty Notices for Irregular School Attendance - Local Code of Conduct (PDF) [306KB] .

From August 2024:

  • The first penalty notice is £160 if paid within 28 days, reduced to or £80 if paid within 21 days.
  • If a parent receives a second notice for the same child within any three year period, the amount of the notice will be £160 to be paid within 28 days.
  • A third penalty notice cannot be issued. Legal action may result (for example, prosecution).

Fixed Penalty Notice information for parents and carers (PDF) [133KB]



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