If your child is of compulsory school age 5 to 16 years old, you are required by law (Section 7 of the Education Act 1996) to make sure that they receive a full time education suitable to his or her needs (about 25 hours a week for primary aged children and 27.5 for secondary), either by attendance at school or through some other means (e.g. home educating). 


Education must be:

  • Full time. 
  • Efficient – the education must achieve what it sets out to achieve.
  • Suitable to their age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs they may have

What is compulsory school age?


A child is of compulsory school age the first term after their 5th birthday until the end of the academic year of their 16th birthday.


– Children who turn 5 between 1st January and 31st March will be of compulsory school age at the beginning of the school term after 1st April.

– Children who turn 5 between 1st April and 31st August will be of compulsory school age at the beginning of the school term after 1st September.

– Children who turn 5 between 1st September and 31st December will be of compulsory school age at the beginning of the school term after 1st January.

A child remains of compulsory school age until the last Friday in June in the school year that they turn 16. 


Young People aged 16 to 18 must either:

– stay in full-time education, for example at a college

– start an apprenticeship or traineeship

– spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training

What does the Law say:

The Registration (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 require a school to put a child’s name on the admissions register on the first day that the child is expected to attend school.

If the pupil does not attend they will be recorded as absent. This can be marked as authorised or unauthorised absence.

There are a few reasons a school will authorise an absence. For example, if your child is too ill to attend, or if you have been given permission from the school in advance.

Other reasons might include attending medical appointments, or if the child has been excluded.  

Please find further information here on:

Children with Medical Needs

Children with Health Needs

Responsibilities where a mental health issue may be affecting attendance: New Guidance 2023


Schools have to inform the local authority of any pupils who are regularly absent from school, have irregular attendance, or have missed 10 school days or more without the school’s permission. 

Schools are also under a safeguarding duty, under section 175 of the Education Act 2002 to investigate any unexplained absences.

Every child has a right to an education and it is illegal for a parent/carer to fail to provide, a child of compulsory school age, with an education.

Some key terminology that you may come across…

PMOE (Pupils Missing Out on Education)

This may be the term used for children of compulsory school age (aged 5-16) who are on the roll of a school or setting, but not attending full-time. The student may have low attendance.

CME (Child Missing in Education)

This may be the term used for children of compulsory school age (aged 5-16) who are not on roll at a school or a setting. The child is not being electively home educated. 

To read the Bexley Local Authority Policy on Children Missing in Education and Pupils Missing out on Education, click here and scroll down to the section on CME and PMOE: https://www.bexleylocaloffer.uk/Page/15119

EHE (Elective Home Education)

This is sometimes called ‘home schooling’, but is more accurately known as ‘elective home education’ or ‘EHE’.
Elective Home Education is where a parent carer decides to de-register their child from school and educate their child at home. Elective home education is a big step where the parent takes full responsibility for their child’s education, including all costs of therapies.

If you are considering Elective Home Education please contact us for further advice.

If your child does not have an EHCP:
If you are considering Elective Home Education due to the incorrect support in place for your child at your school setting, click here to find out more about how special educational needs support works at school: https://www.bexleyiass.co.uk/information-and-advice/sen-support/

If your child does have an EHCP:
If your child has an EHC plan and you are considering Elective Home Education due to the incorrect support in place for your child at the educational setting, click here to find out more about requesting an Early Review of your child’s EHC plan: https://www.bexleyiass.co.uk/information-and-advice/education/

To read the Bexley Local Authority policy on Elective Home Education, click here:  https://www.bexleylocaloffer.uk/Page/17246

It is important to note: The LA no longer has a legal duty to secure any of the special educational provision in the child or young person’s EHC plan if they are being home-educated. 

Off- rolling

‘Off-rolling’ is described by Ofsted as the practice of a school removing a pupil from a school roll in the perceived interests of the school rather than the pupil. Any such exclusion is unlawful where a school removes a pupil from the Admissions Register for any reason not set out in Regulation 8 of The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006.

If you have concerns that a school may off-roll your child, or has off-rolled your child, you should contact the Education Welfare Service at the Local Authority to report this. For more information, and contact details, click here: https://www.bexleylocaloffer.uk/Page/15119


Sec 19 Duty

If your child is of compulsory school age but is not receiving education because:

  • illness is preventing them from being able to attend school
  • they have been permanently excluded from school, or
  • for any other reason,


then under section 19 of the Education Act 1996, your local authority (LA) has a legal duty to secure suitable, full-time alternative education for them.

Illness may include social, emotional and mental health needs.

The law says:

“1) Each local authority shall make arrangements for the provision of suitable education at school or otherwise than at school for those children of compulsory school age who, by reason of illness, exclusion from school or otherwise, may not for any period receive suitable education unless such arrangements are made for them.’

‘(3A) In relation to England, the education to be provided for a child… shall be – (a) full-time education, or (b) in the case of a child within subsection (3AA), education on such part-time basis as the authority consider to be in the child’s best interests.

(3AA) A child is within this subsection if the local authority consider that, for reasons which relate to the physical or mental health of the child, it would not be in the child’s best interests for full-time education to be provided for the child.’

It is important to note that:


For more information on how schools and local authorities should support children with health needs or medical needs, click here: https://www.bexleyiass.co.uk/equality-inclusion/


EBSA (Emotionally Based School Avoidance)

This term may be defined as:

“Reduced or non-attendance at school by a child or young person.

Rather than the term ‘school refusal’, the term EBSA recognises that this avoidance has its root in emotional, mental health or wellbeing issues. EBSA should not be thought of as a deliberate act of defiance, but instead as a complex issue inextricably linked with mental health and wellbeing.”

(Anna Freud National Centre for children and families)

In terms of your child’s rights in attendance at a school setting:

Once a child between the ages of 5 and 16 years old has been out of education for more than 15 days (either consecutive days or dotted throughout the school year) the school should contact the Inclusions service at the LA, the Early Intervention & Specialist advice team at the LA and the Education Welfare Service. Here’s a link to Bexley’s Local Offer, which describes the LA’s local policy and practice: Education Welfare, Exclusions and Reduced Timetables | Bexley Local Offer

There is recent guidance for school regarding support that should be in place for students with Medical / Health Needs. This 2023 guidance for schools describes what they should do where there is a pupil experiencing social, emotional or mental health issues that are affecting attendance. It explains schools must record absences as authorised where pupils of compulsory school age cannot attend due to illness (both physical and  mental health related). It states that there is no need for schools to routinely ask for medical evidence to support recording an absence as authorised for mental health reasons. It makes it clear that prosecution should only be considered where all other options have been exhausted or deemed inappropriate. You can download the document here: Summary of responsibilities where a mental health issue is affecting attendance (publishing.service.gov.uk)



A Head Teacher or the local authority may issue a penalty notice for unauthorised absence.

If you believe you have been incorrectly issued with a penalty notice you should raise your concerns with Governing body.

If you have been issued with an Attendance Order because of your child’s absences from school, you should contact the relevant person or department to explain that your child has special educational needs and is experiencing mental health difficulties.

Suggest to them that serving an Attendance Order in these circumstances would be premature and inappropriate, and what is needed is co-ordinated action by support agencies to identify and make provision for all of your child’s needs.

Hopefully, once everyone involved realises that your child’s non-attendance is to do with their anxiety and SEN rather than deliberate truancy, the threat will be withdrawn.

If the Local Authority continue with the Attendance Order, or actually serve it, you will need to speak to a solicitor who is familiar with education law.

Please check here if you qualify for LEGAL AID

If you are concerned regarding your child’s attendance please review the information on the IASS Equality & Inclusion page of this website or call us to discuss. 


School Anxiety and Avoidance 

School can be a place of support, belonging, learning and community for children & young people. For some, school can also become challenging or distressing over a longer period of time.

If your child is struggling at school, the important thing is to recognise that there’s a problem to be solved, and to work with your child, medical professionals and the school to find the right support as soon as possible.

Speak to your GP or another medical/mental health professional

As a first step, you should take your child to your GP and explain what has been happening. If the GP (or any medical/mental health professional) feels that the child is not currently fit to attend school, ask for a letter to the local authority (LA) to be provided, explaining this. Evidence of this type would provide a documented explanation for the child’s non-attendance.

You can ask your GP to refer your child to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (known as CAMHS), although thresholds for accessing this service are often high.

Speak to the school

Ask the class teacher and / or SENCO  for a meeting to discuss what might be behind the attendance avoidance.

The term special educational need / disability ( SEND ) covers a broad spectrum which includes the social, emotional and mental health needs of your child.

Your child does not need to be struggling academically in order to access SEN support. 

Please find further information here on SEN Support in schools.  

The school may need to seek support from outside agencies. The LA’s education welfare service can be helpful in providing strategies and support for children who are beginning to school-refuse.

Please find further information on the Education Welfare services in Bexley HERE 

If you continue to be concerned regarding your child’s attendance please review the information on the IASS Equality & Inclusion page of this website or call us to discuss. 

Additional Information, Advice and Support


The Challenging Behaviour Foundation:


Not Fine in School:

Not Fine in School – School Refusal, School Attendance | Not Fine in School

Government Guidance:

School attendance and Absence

Young Minds:

Supporting your Child at school 

Coping with School Attendance issues:



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