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

In General by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Going to school is compulsory in the UK from 5 to 16 years old, however, you must stay in full time education until 18 years old. Your school education is the basic foundation of learning that you require for everything and anything you want to do later in life. It is important to know how missing either a couple of hours, a couple of days, or even a couple of months of school may affect not only you, but your parents or legal guardian.

Failure to show up to class for even one day, will result in the school contacting your parents. If you do not go to school for an understandable reason, then your absence will be noted. If you are missing from school without a good reason, or your attendance drops below 90 per cent, the Education Welfare Service may be contacted. This service will contact your parents or a legal guardian with a school attendance order, a parenting order, an education supervision order, or even a fine. 

Continue reading this article to find out the consequences of truancy and missing school upon you and your legal guardian.

What Does Your School Do if You Miss School?

The school will first contact parents immediately if you do not show up to class during registration, either by messaging or calling to inform them that you are not present. Each school has its own system of making sure their pupils are at school when they are meant to be and if this is not the case, the school will reach out to parents, out of concern. 

Most schools aim to do a register at the start of every period, which will then be sent to the administration of the school who will contact the appropriate staff to find the missing child. Once they are sure the pupil is not at school, they will reach out to parents. It is vital for schools to know where you are at all times in order to ensure you are safe as well as getting a full education. 

Schools expect pupils to show up to every period on every school day for all 52 weeks of the year unless they have gotten pervious notice of absence with an acceptable reason. If your reason for not showing up to school is due to reasons such as bullying, social pressure or a problem with the staff, you must contact the school and attempt to work out a reasonable solution. This is vitally important in order for you to comfortably receive your education, however, these are not acceptable reasons to be missing school. 

If your attendance drops below 90 per cent without good reason the school will contact the council, who will then contact your parents with much larger consequences. The school may also refer you to the EWS (Education Welfare Security), who will send an Education Welfare Officer also known as EWO, in order to assess if your parents are condoning your absences. 

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, not only will you miss out on your education, but your parents will also face consequences for not complying with the attendance and absence guidelines. Measures will then be taken to make sure you go to school regularly if your parents are unfit to enforce this. 

Local councils and schools can use various legal powers if you are missing from school without a good reason. They may send your parents or legal guardian a Parenting Order, an Education Supervision Order, a School Attendance Order, or even a ‘penalty notice’, more commonly known as a fine. It may even go as far as prosecution if their child continues to not show up to school. Your parent can be given one or more of these, but the council is not required to send one before prosecution. 

Prosecutions against parents are rarely used, acting only as a last resort for when parents fail to engage with the EWS and fail to address their child’s educational and welfare needs. The EWS can also give parents a penalty notice. Parents could be fined up to 1000 pounds for each child that misses school. 

What is Considered Bad School Attendance?

It is normal for everyone to take a few anomalous days off of school when they are unwell or have acceptably important prearranged plans. So how many days is it acceptable and unacceptable to not go to school on? 

90 per cent is considered the absolute minimum that your attendance should reach. Once your attendance drops below this for inexplicable reasons, the school starts to take serious action. Although the percentage of 90 sounds relatively high, by putting it into proportion, we find that it means 19 entire days off school. This is almost four weeks.  

During this time your teachers may have covered entire topics in your lessons. Even if the days are spaced out, the constant gaps in your knowledge may lead to large slip ups in your official exams limiting your choices for further education and prospective jobs.  

On every day of school, you will benefit from learning, some days more than others. Every hour you spend problem solving or conversing with classmates helps develop skills that will be essential once you have left school. This means that technically any attendance below 100 per cent is ‘bad’. 

The average attendance rate in England in 2019 in the autumn term was 95.07 per cent and so anything less than this is below average. Check out this source to see where these figures have come from.

Why is School Attendance Important?

School is incredibly important; regular attendance is imperative for your future. School provides you with many social and life skills, team working and leadership characteristics, cultural awareness, acquaintances, and friendships which may then lead to career opportunities further down the road. This is all due to the exposure to the learning environment and a greater number of people similar to you. 

Continuous attendance to your lessons and 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. 

Higher grades and exam results will then result in a greater chance of attending the sixth form college and university of your choice and well as increase the likelihood of desirable job opportunities. 

Although some days may be difficult, it is important to remember the necessity and benefits attending school has upon your future. 

How Does Not Going to School Affect You?

By not attending school you will miss out on all the improved skills and benefits that come with the mandatory learning and this will have a crucial effect on your future. Aside from the essential academic content taught through the core subjects of English, Maths, and Science, school also develops and advances skills that you will be unable to live without after you leave school. 

By not going to school, you will be reducing your chances of passing and getting high grades on your final exams. This will in turn lead to fewer further education options and job opportunities open to you in the future.  

A low attendance will cause you to fall behind, in some cases severely. This may lead to you having to repeat specific years of school in order to pass your exams, especially, if you wish to pursue further education or jobs with higher requirements. This is because you may not graduate with enough credits to get most jobs or go to university. 

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 and 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.

If you choose to leave school prematurely, you must then do one of the following until you are a legal adult. 

  • Work or volunteer for 20 hours a week in addition to part-time education or training 
  • Switch from school to an apprenticeship 
  • Continue full time education at a college, or even at home 

When is it Okay Not to Go to School?

It is legal and understandable for a pupil to miss school if they’re too ill to go in. It is also legal to miss school for an acceptable period of time, depending on the reason. If the pupil’s parents or legal guardian have gotten permission from the school, in particular the head teacher, in advance then it is okay. 

This usually occurs when there are exceptional circumstances, and your parents have made an application to the head teacher. However, your parents can be fined for taking their child on holiday during term time without the school’s permission. 

What to Do if You Don’t Want to Go to School

There are many reasons why you may not want to go to school, this does not mean you are a bad pupil, it just means attending school causes you to feel upset and unhappy. It is important to discuss your feelings with your parents or a trusted adult rather than keeping it to yourself. 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 may be due to a difficult social life and pressures, academic pressure, major changes such as moving from primary to secondary, external stress and pressure.  

When this is the case, it is important to find a long-term solution to this anxiety rather than to regularly miss school. You should discuss this with your parents or legal guardian, and they will assist you and guide you in this process. 

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 is also important to consider seeking external help such as seeing a therapist, or someone trained to help pupils deal with anxiety that is causing school refusal. 

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

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