School attendance: guidance for schools

Guidance on using pupil registers and attendance codes, as well as setting school hours and term dates.


School attendance


For schools, please read temporary additional guidance about how you should record attendance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, we have disapplied certain statutory provisions, so that the parent of a child of compulsory school age is not guilty of an offence on account of the child’s failure to attend regularly at the school at which the child is registered (section 444 of the Education Act 1996). This means that parents will not be penalised if their child does not attend school.

We have also modified the meaning of ‘pupil’ (section 3 of the Education Act 1996) in the context of pupil registration (section 434 of the Education Act 1996). This means that children temporarily attending another school because of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not be registered as pupils. They should return to their own school once it reopens.

Children who attend a school on a temporary basis because of coronavirus (COVID-19) will still be pupils for all purposes other than registration. For example, they will still be pupils for the purposes of the school’s special educational needs (SEN), safeguarding and school medical duties. The school will be able to apply its normal behaviour policy to such children and – as is the case with its registered pupils – it cannot charge these children for their education.

You can also read the guidance for the full opening of schools which provides information on attendance expectations for the coming autumn term.

This guidance is for:

  • headteachers
  • governors
  • all school staff
  • local authorities
  • providers of alternative provision (for children who can’t go to a mainstream school)

It may also be useful for parents and carers.

It applies to:

  • schools maintained by the local authority
  • academies and free schools
  • pupil referral units (for children who can’t go to a mainstream school)
  • non-maintained special schools (schools for children with special educational needs that the Secretary of State for Education has approved under section 342 of the Education Act 1996)
  • independent schools for pupil registers

This guidance will help you maintain high levels of school attendance and plan school hours, term and holiday dates. It provides information about interventions to address pupils’ poor attendance and behaviour at school.

You should use it alongside the statutory guidance on parental measures for school attendance and behaviour.

Published 25 November 2013
Last updated 29 May 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance to 30 June 2020.

  2. Updated to reflect changes made under the Coronavirus Act 2020 concerning school attendance.

  3. Updated section 2 of the 'School attendance' guidance to include information on changes to school day and school week.

  4. Replaced 'school attendance' guide with updated version to include advice on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

  5. Updated to reflect the 2016 amendments to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006.

  6. Replaced document to include updates to the section on Code C, on page 9.

  7. First published.