What Happens if You Don’t Go To School in the UK?

In General by Think Student Editor1 Comment

Let’s be honest, every student at some point has wished that they didn’t have to go to school! After all, it can become quite repetitive going to the same lessons everyday, following a predictable timetable and seeing the same teachers. Therefore, it’s no wonder that students may daydream about what would happen if they didn’t go to school. They probably think about long lie ins and binge-watching Netflix. However, there are definitely consequences of refusing to go to school! It may be important to know what these are.

If you are a registered student and don’t show up to school without alerting reception, your parents will probably be called. If you do let the school know that you won’t be turning up and can provide a good reason, you will be issued with an authorised absence. However, if you miss school for a prolonged period of time, your parents may be fined. This will not be the case if you are legally home schooled.

If you want to find out more about the consequences of missing school and whether skiving is really worth the extra lie ins, check out the rest of this article!

Is it compulsory to attend school in the UK?

The majority of students in the UK do attend school. However, there are many individuals who don’t! This is because they are home-schooled.

Home-schooling simply means that these students receive their education at home, instead of going to a school. It is the law for children to be in education from age 5 to 16, so if you are home-schooled, you must be receiving some sort of education for this part of your life.

From 16 to 18 years of age, you must also be in some form of education, however this includes apprenticeships or working whilst still partly learning. You can find out more about how old you have to be until you can leave education if you check out this page from the government website.

Often, the council will visit home-schooled students to ensure that they are receiving a satisfactory education. You can find out more about home schooling if you check out this page from the government website.

You can learn more about what it means to be home schooled in this Think Student article.

How do schools react if you don’t turn up to class?

Sometimes, it can be hard to get up in the mornings. However, you need to be aware that not turning up to school can have major consequences!

During a school day, several registers are taken. This means that it is extremely hard to get away from school without anybody noticing. If you have called the school to let them know that you won’t be in for one or two days and have provided a valid reason, the school will happily accept your absence.

However, if the absence is unauthorised, the school will take action! Your absence would be reported to the administration of the school.

The school will first contact parents if you do not show up to class during registration, to inform them that you are not present. After all, it is vital for schools to know where you are at all times in order to ensure you are safe, as well as providing you with a full education.

If your attendance drops too low without good reason, the school may contact the council, who will then contact your parents with much larger consequences. If your attendance is extremely low during sixth form, you could even be kicked out! Check out this article from Think Student to find out more about this.

Does school truancy affect your parent(s) or legal guardian?

It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to ensure their child follows the attendance and absence guidance of their school. These rules are generally found on your school’s website.

When you commit truancy, your parents could face consequences for not complying with the attendance and absence guidelines. Measures would then be taken to make sure you go to school regularly if your parents are unfit to enforce this.

Local councils and schools could use various legal powers if you are missing from school without a good reason. They may even send a ‘penalty notice’, which is more commonly known as a fine.

Your parents may even be prosecuted if you continue to not show up to school. However, local authorities will always attempt to improve a child’s attendance and offer support before taking any major action.

Parents may also be given a penalty notice. Parents could be fined up to £2,500 for each child that misses school if prosecuted. The fines are much lower if prosecution doesn’t occur. You can find out more about fines if you check out this article from the government website.

When are you allowed to miss school?

For some students, it is not possible to be in school every single day of term time. After all, it is hard to escape illnesses!

This means that students are allowed to miss school when they are too ill to go. However, a valid illness needs to be a bit more than a little sniffle! If you are off for an extended amount of time due to an illness, schools may offer extra support.

Students are also able to miss school for doctors’ appointments or other healthcare appointments. Schools do encourage booking appointments outside of school time. However, this is not always possible.

For all of the reasons outlined above, you need to let the school know that you will be off, allowing them to give you an authorised absence.

You can miss school to go on holiday in some circumstances. However, you would have to ask for specific permission from the headteacher. If you don’t do this, your parents could be fined!

You can find out more about valid reasons for missing school if you check out this page from the government website. Some students also don’t go to school because they are home schooled!

This is completely legal, as long as they are receiving an appropriate education, which follows the national curriculum.

What is considered bad school attendance?

It is normal for everyone to take a few days off school. However, there is a limit to this! Many schools see 90% as the absolute minimum that your attendance should reach. 

Although 90% sounds relatively high, it actually equates to 19 entire days off school. This is equivalent to four weeks and 100 missed lessons! You can find out more about how many lessons are missed for each attendance percentage if you check out this page from EGFL. Alternatively, this article from Think Student has some useful information.

The average attendance rate in England in 2023/2024 was 93%. This can be seen as a good attendance to aim for, although anything higher would be amazing! Check out this page from the government website to discover more statistics.

Why is school attendance important?

Continuous attendance to your lessons allows you to learn and understand the content being taught. It is therefore no surprise, that students with higher attendance levels have an improved performance in exams and higher grades.

In fact, this page from the government website explains how students who don’t pass GCSE Maths and English had an overall absence rate of 8.8% in 2022. Students who did pass had an overall absence rate of only 5.2%.

Higher grades and exam results will then result in a greater chance of attending the sixth form college and university of your choice. Although some days may be difficult, it is important to remember the necessity and benefits attending school has upon your future.

What age can you legally leave school?

The legal school leaving age in the UK is 16 years old, however, the term of the school year that you are permitted to leave in depends upon the month of your 16th birthday. This varies between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Find out exactly when you can leave according to your 16th birthday and more about the legal school-leaving age on the UK government website.

After you have finished the academic year which included your 16th birthday, you still have to be in some form of education. This is because it is the law to still be educated until you are 18 years old in parts of the UK. You can find out more about this in this Think Student article.

However, this doesn’t have to be classroom based. After all, some students absolutely hate that part of school! Instead, you could do an apprenticeship or volunteer whilst learning.

If you do like a school-type environment, there is the option to go to college or sixth form! This Think Student article outlines all of the options available to you after you leave school.

What do you do if you don’t want to go to school?

There are many reasons why you may not want to go to school and this does not mean you are a bad pupil! Many students have problems in school because of the social aspect and this can be especially tough if they experience bullying. If you want some advice on how to deal with bullying, check out this article from Think Student.

It is important to discuss your feelings with your parents or a trusted adult rather than keeping it to yourself if you find that you are having problems. Talking to someone who can help will allow you to receive an effective education without hurting your mental or physical health.

School anxiety and refusal occurs with hundreds of pupils across the UK. It can be due to a range of different reasons, including academic pressures and struggles to adjust.

When this is the case, it is important to find a long-term solution to this anxiety rather than to regularly miss school. You could discuss this with your parents or legal guardian, and they will hopefully offer assistance.

Arranging a talk with the school, namely higher administration staff, who will suggest and provide way to make effective changes to your school life to help manage and reduce anxiety. It may also be beneficial to consider seeking external help such as seeing a therapist.

If you are struggling with school anxiety, perhaps sit down with a trusted adult and consider talking through this article from Think Student on what to do to find a solution to school anxiety.

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Home ed mummy
Home ed mummy
2 months ago

Education is compulsory in the UK. Going to school is not. Please get your facts straight.