School can be stressful at times, especially as you get older. We have all at some point of our school life felt the urge to miss a day or two even if we don’t have a valid reason. However, this would be considered an unauthorised absence. An unauthorised absence refers to an absence that is not agreed by your school. If you take repeated unauthorised absences, your parents could be liable for a penalty notice or even further legal action.
This is not the case for authorised absences which refer to absences which have been informed to the school and authorised by the headteacher of the school. Unfortunately, although the absence has been authorised, it will still have an effect on your overall attendance. Schools record each student’s presence or absence at school and the reason why. As long as the absence is valid, it will be taken into consideration when reviewing your attendance.
The above summarises the legal aspect of authorised absences. However, I recommend you read on as it is important to understand the effect that absences can have on your education as well.
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What does authorised absence mean?
As mentioned above, an authorised absence must be authorised by your school. However, there are a set of governmental guidelines that schools must follow when determining whether your absence can be authorised.
Within the guidelines there are a set of codes from A to Z which outline the various situations why a student might take absence. The following codes are situations where an absence must be marked as unauthorised.
- Code G: holiday not authorised by the school or in excess of the period
- Code N: reason for absence not yet provided
- Code O: absent from school without authorisation
- Code U: arrived in school after registration closed
Most authorised absences are authorised if you are ill or in a physical condition where you are unable to attend. You will not usually be required to provide evidence for this. However, your school can request medical evidence if in doubt of the authenticity of the illness.
Lots of students will follow different faiths so taking a day off for religious observance will be treated as an authorised absence. However, if this is the case, it is important that the day of absence is exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body you belong to.
Religious observance absences are not the same as absences for religious events. For example, attending baptisms or bar mitzvahs does not count and your school will determine whether the absence can be authorised or not.
Check out this article by Think Student to find out more about the evidence your school may require authorising absences and in what other circumstances absences can be authorised. You can also look at this governmental guide to learn more about situations where absences are considered authorised and unauthorised.
How much does your attendance go down if you miss a day of school?
It is impossible for a student to have a 100% attendance throughout their school years. The government has no set figures for what attendance should be.
Students will generally be seen as having good attendance if they have an attendance rate of roughly 95% in a school year. This accounts for roughly 9.5 missed school days.
A full school year in England is usually 190 days or more. Taking a day off may not seem like much but one day of absence brings your attendance down by roughly 0.5%. The table below outlines the effect of absences on your overall attendance.
|Days of absence in a school year||Approximate attendance rate (%)|
For more information about, check out this guide by Reach Academy, Feltham.
Looking at the table you can see that it only takes about 10 days for your attendance to drop below the national average. These may be due to sick days, days off for religious observance, medical appointments etc. These all add up and it is easier than you think for your attendance to drop.
Taking too many absences from your secondary school education can have a big impact and this attendance graph from Harry Town School illustrates the effect of missed days across a span of 5 school years.
How many authorised absences are you allowed from school?
There is no set number of days of authorised absence. Everyone’s situation is different. It is up to your headteacher to determine how many days you can be away from school as long as it can be justified and follows governmental guidelines.
The maximum number of days of absence that are allowed for religious observance is three days in an academic year. In some cases, this is no more than one day a term.
Schools may not authorise absences on other days. For more information about this, check out this governmental guide.
It is fairly common for parents to take their children out of school before the school holidays actually begin. This is primarily because of lowered expenses during term-time holidays. Whilst this is generally considered an unauthorised absence, it can be authorised if the school gives permission.
To make the absence authorised, you must get permission from the headteacher themselves. This is often done by a student’s parent or carer making an application to the head teacher in advance.
Holidays may be authorised if there are exceptional circumstances such as funerals abroad or tickets purchased a long time ago. For more information, check out this governmental guide.
If your school does not authorise the absence and you still go on holiday, it could lead to your parent or carer being fined. This BBC article talks more about this here.
What happens if you have too many authorised absences?
When a school authorises an absence, they must follow up and determine whether the reason is still valid. If your attendance rate drops too low or the school doubts the reason for absence, schools can contact the local authority.
A penalty notice can be issued to a parent or carer due to Section 23 of the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003. For more on this law, look at this governmental page. However, your school will most likely contact you many times before it reaches this stage.
The notice is £60 if paid within 21 days of receipts. If not paid within that period, it can be £120 if paid within 28 days. The purpose of a penalty notice is that it enables parents to discharge potential liability for conviction, hence there is no need for an appearance in court.
For more information about this fine, check out this governmental guide.
The legal consequences are a big problem. However, the biggest problem with authorised absences and low attendance is the effect it can have on your university applications. This article by Think Student goes in-depth about this.