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Support to help your child attend school

All parents, carers and schools want children to learn and be happy. However, all children are different and have different needs to enable them to reach their full potential.

If your child is having difficulties attending school, then it is important that you as their parent or carer speak to their school directly in the first instance. This is especially important if your child has any health conditions that are affecting their attendance.

If your child has an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP), you can ask their school to arrange a prompt review to help address any difficulties around school attendance. For more information on EHC Plans, click here

The Attendance Service

We would encourage you to speak first with your child's school about any difficulties they may be having attending. However, if the situation continues or you cannot reach agreement with the school, you can ask the school to speak to their allocated Education Welfare Officer (EWO) and make a referral for you (some academies may provide their own attendance support).

EWO’s are part of the Attendance Service, and are often able to help improve your child's attendance over time. They can support you through the development of an Attendance Action plan or advise you about the consideration for an Education Supervision Order (ESO), and they also have strong links with the Inclusion Service Family Services Team, the Elective Home Education Service and the Education Service at Suffolk County Council, as well as a wide range of other organisations.

The EWOs will work together with both you and the school, and will also take your child's point of view into account in order to achieve the best attendance that is possible. They will have a variety of ideas and strategies to help all parties work together to improve your child's attendance.

If your child's school does not have an EWO, you can contact the Lead Attendance Officer or Assistant Lead Attendance Officers by email at SchoolAttendance@Suffolk.gov.uk

Common Assessment Framework

Something else that may be considered is whether a referral to your local Early Help Team via a process called a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) might be helpful for you and your child. This should be discussed with the school and if an EWO is involved, they should be involved with you in this discussion.

The CAF is a way of working with families that puts your needs at the heart of decisions made about you and your children. It is usually started because something is worrying you about your child. You can find out more about CAFs here. They are not always the appropriate route; other agencies may be able to provide your child with alternative appropriate support in conjunction with their school.


If your child has been excluded from school it will be a worrying time for you and you may have many questions about what this means and what the process is.

Exclusions, both permanent and fixed term, should only be used as a last resort when other measures have been tried and been unsuccessful. Exclusion should only be the first response to a child’s behaviour in exceptional circumstances (for example in the event of an assault, the supplying or taking of illegal drugs or threatening someone with a weapon).

It is never appropriate, nor is it legal to exclude a child for minor infringements, especially where such rules are more likely to disadvantage one gender, or ethnic group, faith or culture such as;

  • Breaches to school uniform
  • Wearing of jewellery

Permanent Exclusions

Permanently excluding children from school is always a last resort and the decision should never be taken lightly, particularly for children with Special Educational Needs and in other vulnerable groups. Schools should seek advice and support from the Local Authority before taking this step.

The Children’s Commissioner advises these thresholds for exclusion, which need to be met before exclusion is considered:

Excluding a child from school should only happen in order to:

  • Protect the health and safety of the individual; 
  • Protect the health and safety of others; or
  • Prevent disruption to learning

You can read more about the legal steps a school or setting must take when considering an exclusion here: School Discipline and Exclusions | Gov.uk

Unofficial Exclusions Explained

In every instance where a pupil is sent home for disciplinary reasons, the Headteacher, or the teacher in charge, must formally record and specify the length of the exclusion.  Schools have a duty of care towards pupils.

  • Schools must not use unrecorded short-term exclusions to allow children to “cool off” or if the head teacher does not consider school the most “appropriate place” for the afternoon.
  • There should never be a situation where pupils are sent home and not allowed to return until after a meeting has taken place with parents
  • Pupils should never be sent home without parents/carers being made aware
  • Parents should not be asked to keep children at home for a period of time because of a threat of permanent exclusion

What to do if your child has been illegally excluded

If you believe your child has been illegally excluded from school you can contact Suffolk County Council using the following email: SchoolAttendance@Suffolk.gov.uk .

Suffolk County Council will acknowledge your email within 3 working days.  A Local Authority Officer will contact the Headteacher; discuss it with them and work towards a resolution.  If, for whatever reason, the Local Authority Officer is unable to resolve the issue with the Headteacher, this will be escalated to the Chair of Governors (or equivalent).

If you would like further impartial, confidential Information, Advice or Support to help you resolve issues around unofficial exclusions and school SEND support you can contact SENDIASS – enquiries@suffolksendiass.co.uk  or 01473 265210.

In Year Fair Access Panel (IYFAP)

In-Year Fair Access Protocol (IYFAP) 

If you feel your son/daughter is being excluded on a regular and increasing basis from school, their school may have mentioned IYFAP to you. This is in place to ensure that any child or young person who is without a school placement in-year, can be allocated a school place as quickly as possible. Further information and protocols/guidance can be found here.

You can also request more information from the Family Services Team to discuss your own situation. In the first instance, please contact business support in your local area on the numbers below:

West Suffolk 01284 758806

North Suffolk  01502 674720

South Suffolk 01473 264465

They will pass your details to a Family Services Officer who will call you back in due course.

Part Time Timetables

Sometimes schools will use part time timetables to help get a child back into school, especially after a period of absence. A part time timetable should look to increase the hours of attendance of the child over time to bring them back to a full timetable as soon as possible, but it should be appropriate and a joint agreement between the school and the parents or carers.

Part time timetables should only be used as a temporary short-term measure to aid a child’s reintegration into full time education and with the parent/carers consent, plus medical advice and evidence where necessary.

The timetable, along with the plan to return to fulltime education, should be documented and agreed. The EWO can be involved with this if this is felt helpful.

There may be times when a school find that due to a child's needs, they cannot safely provide a full-time education for that child. These cases may arise where, for example, a new EHCP or a new condition has come to light.

In these cases, then a part time timetable may be put in place with the agreement of the parents/carers, but again this should only be a temporary measure and reviewed every 6 weeks. This may be whilst a new provision is found for the child or while the bring in new resources to work with the child in their current setting. This process should be documented, and copies given to the parent carer.

If there are difficulties then again an EWO can be consulted if there is one allocated to the school. If a school does not have an EWO, parents can contact the Lead Attendance Officer or Assistant Lead Attendance Officers by email at SchoolAttendance@Suffolk.gov.uk.

Part time Timetables should be reviewed at a minimum every six weeks to ensure that they are working, and that they are still appropriate for the child’s need.

If there is a health condition that is restricting your child's attendance at school, then the agreement for this part time timetable should be done in consultation with the family's GP or Consultant. There should be some written evidence from your GP or Consultant to support the part time timetable and indicating a likely timeframe for it to be in place. There may be some cases where a part time timetable may need to be in place for some length of time, but again this should be with the GP or Consultant's advice and the reviews should still be carried out.

In some cases, the School Nursing Service may be able to become involved and help link with your GP surgery to consider your child's physical health and wellbeing as part of their attendance difficulties. Your consent will be sought before this is done.

Involving all the professionals working with your child is key to ensure that your child’s educational potential is not lost due to not being in school.

In extreme cases, referral to a medical agency may be sufficient enough to be deemed as evidence in regard to non-attendance matters. These decisions will be taken in consideration with parents by the Lead Attendance Officer and the Strategic Lead for School Attendance.

DofE guidance

“Can a school place a pupil on a part-time timetable?

As a rule, no. All pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full-time education. In very exceptional circumstances there may be a need for a temporary part-time timetable to meet a pupil’s individual needs. For example, where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full-time education and a part-time timetable is considered as part of a re-integration package. A part-time timetable must not be treated as a long-term solution. Any pastoral support programme or other agreement must have a time limit by which point the pupil is expected to attend full-time or be provided with alternative provision.

In agreeing to a part-time timetable, a school has agreed to a pupil being absent from school for part of the week or day and therefore must record it as authorised absence.”

Can the school force my child onto a part-time timetable?

No.  A part-time timetable can only be started with parental permission.

If parents/carers are concerned about a part time timetable they can contact the Lead Attendance Officer or Assistant Lead Attendance Officers by email at SchoolAttendance@Suffolk.gov.uk for the matter to be looked into.

School Refuser

School refusal is a childhood emotional disorder describing young people who are unable to attend school due to anxiety. It is believed to affect between 1 and 5% of the population.

If it is considered a child has the above condition or has a diagnosis of school refuser, then this should be considered with the school and any appropriate professional that is part of the team looking after a child’s needs so that they can ensure they take a joined up approach to any action to address the issue.

Use of the term ‘school refuser’ has now largely been replaced in favour of the term ‘school avoider’.  A child is now better understood to be avoiding or not attending school for emotionally based reasons, rather than simply ‘refusing’ to go in out of choice.   This change in terminology acknowledges that in actual fact, many non-attending children are desperate to be back in school, but for a complex range of reasons feel temporarily unable to do so.

A range of resources that may be of interest to you on the topic of Emotionally Based School Avoidance have been co-produced with the Psychology and Therapeutic Service and are available here:  EBSA Emotionally Based School Avoidance on the Suffolk County Council website.

Below are some links which you may find useful: 

Parents and carers (autism.org.uk)

School attendance and absence: Help with getting your child to go to school - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


In all cases where a child is not attending school and failing to reach their potential the Suffolk County Council Attendance Service will work with parents and carers and the school, as well as other relevant partners, to find creative solutions to have the child improve their attendance and access to education.

In cases where there are health conditions with evidence to support this, the attendance service will work with the pupil, their family and the school to achieve the best attendance that is possible for a child.

However, where there is no substantiated evidence, then there will be consideration by the school as to other processes that may result in legal action. This will be only in cases where all other methods to secure the good attendance of a child has failed.

The law is clear that it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure that a child attends school.

If you receive a fixed penalty Notice regarding your child's attendance, then please see the advice on the following link:

Pupil attendance, penalty notices and welfare | Suffolk County Council


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