Reading time: 4 minutes

Reducing persistent absence is an objective for almost all attendance officers.

Maintained schools must meet for 380 sessions or 190 days during any school year – and if schools are prevented from reaching this target they must find a way of holding extra sessions.

But what are the requirements for meeting attendance and what can be done to reduce persistent absence? This blog post explains.

What is the school’s responsibility for ensuring attendance?

Schools are expected to monitor attendance via registers on two occasions each day.

This should take place in the first morning session of each school day and once during the second/afternoon session.

The register breaks attendance down into four columns:


  • Present
  • Attending an approved educational activity
  • Absent
  • Unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances

What should you do when a pupil is absent?

If a pupil of compulsory school is absent, schools have a responsibility to:

  • Ascertain the reason
  • Ensure the proper safeguarding action is taken
  • Indicate on the register whether the absence is authorised or unauthorised absence
  • Identify the correct code to use before entering onto the school’s electronic register or management information system – which is then used to download data to the school census

What is persistent absence?

Persistent absence equates to a pupil being absent for 10% of more of their possible sessions. 

This has been a key measure for school since the 2005-06 academic year.

Persistent absence can be authorised, unauthorised or a combination of both.

There are a number of reasons for persistent absence. These are explained below.

What are the reasons for persistent absence?

The reasons for persistent absence are varied and maybe complicated.

Sometimes the reasons for persistent absence are unavoidable and justifiable – such as an operation or medical treatment.

For pupils who are persistently absent for these reasons, the focus should be meeting the needs of these children academically and pastorally.

Other persistently absent pupils may have a single, clear reason for their absences – such as periods of exclusion from school or due to unauthorised leave of absence. In these instances, an appropriate response procedure should be followed.

When there is no reason for poor attendance, an assessment on the issues impacting on a child’s absence should be undertaken. These are so appropriate interventions can be put in place:

  • Reasons for the child’s absence
  • Pattern of absence (length and frequency) and the amount of authorised and unauthorised absence
  • The levels of parent and pupil engagement, communication and cooperations
  • Actions undertaken and the impact 

How to reduce persistent absence

When tackling persistent absence, the first place to start is tracking and monitoring – to identify pupils who are at risk of becoming or who are persistently absence.

A good tracking system will:

  • Include all children and their attendance
  • Include attendance in the previous academic year
  • Highly all pupils who were persistently absent at the end of the previous academic year

This tracking system will allow you to record any actions undertaken, review the impact of these actions and prevent any drift between interventions and decision-making.

Once you have assembled the reasons for persistent absence you need to identify strategies to address it:

  • Multi-agency meetings and action plans
  • Requests to medical information or information from other services
  • Use of local authority enforcement processes and procedures
  • Home visits
  • Direct work with children and parents to address root causes
  • Engaging specialist services
  • Considering options for provisions

The importance of early intentions

The most successful interventions are those identified before it becomes a problem for the child.

At the first sign of an issue occurring, schools should consider:

  • Use of attendance-targeting letters that make parents aware that pupils have become or at risk of becoming persistently absent and what is expected
  • Early meetings with parents and pupils when concerns first emerge to discuss these and agree on actions in order to improve attendance
  • Documented conversations with parents and pupils to agree actions
  • Formal attendance panels (including a member of the Senior Leadership Team)
  • Home visits

For more information read: Preventing persistent absence and truancy

What support is available for the persistently absent?

EDClass‘s online alternative provision is ideal for those persistently absent.

If students have been excluded from mainstream classroom settings, have struggled to integrate into alternative provision or if anxiety creates a barrier to learning – our system has a proven track record of increasing attainment dramatically.

EDClass provides access to 11,000 lessons. Safeguarding is ensured through a range of alert mechanisms and all members of the team are enhanced CRB-checked. 

Regular attendance and participation in school is important factor in educational life and success. Students who are regular non-attenders could be at risk of alienation from education and this could affect future learning opportunities. 

An online virtual classroom can support EDLounge to gain attendance. You can create individualised programmes and learning pathways for learners to follow – and these can match specific schemes of work.

Lucy Flux, Lead Teacher for Targeted Intervention at Springwell Lincolnshire said:

The interface for the students is very user-friendly, and they actively enjoy their lessons, even those who have previously hated school.

From a teacher’s point of view, the system allows me to provide a totally individualised curriculum for each student, and to track progress with great accuracy. The marking and feedback system is incredibly helpful, as the lesson is marked automatically as the student work through it, so that I can focus on giving useful verbal and written feedback rather than spending hours over the minutiae of checking answers. The variety of subjects an number of lessons available provides flexibility, and a much broader offer than students on one-to-one tuition usually receive.

For more information, call 01909 568 338.