When a Child is Absent from School and School Exclusions


This chapter applies to all Children Looked After. It should be read in conjunction with the government guidance documents and related chapters.

Note that different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.


DfE, Promoting the Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children

Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions (2015): Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England (DfE)

See also: Knowsley Quality Assurance Framework for Alternative Educational Provision 2016-17


The Virtual School Procedure


The chapter was reviewed in December 2022.

1. Introduction

The gap in attainment between Children Looked After (CLA) and the general school population is significant. Those children who are not looked after achieve considerably better at GCSE than those who are. Many children who are looked after have experienced significant disruption and as a consequence can have gaps in their learning. It is therefore imperative that CLA have excellent attendance to ensure that these gaps are addressed and not compounded by further absence from school.

As Corporate Parents, it is important that social workers, schools and carers work together to ensure that children in their care attend school regularly and that any difficulties are identified early.

Further information and guidance is available in Knowsley's Attendance Strategy 2021-2024. The Strategy details expectation for professionals in schools, social care and for carers / parents.

2. Procedure

  • The residential staff/carer must notify the child's school and the child's social worker immediately if the child does not attend school for any reason;
  • The child's or young person's social worker will be contacted by the Virtual School and asked to provide additional information where concerns are triggered through the monitoring process;
  • In any case where the child has been absent from school for more than 10 days, the social worker should liaise with the school, the Virtual School, the child, residential staff/carers and any other relevant person to address any underlying issues and to support return to school;
  • Attendance concerns and subsequent actions should be noted in individual ICS records. Alert the Virtual School of any concerns;
  • Promoting positive attendance should be an integral part of all Permanency Policy and Care Planning Procedure and Personal Education Planning meetings and Children Looked After Reviews;
  • Promoting positive attendance should be an integral part of all Care and Permanence Planning Meetings Procedure and Personal Education Planning meetings and Children Looked After Reviews;
  • All Children Looked After (CLA) will have an up to date PEP which makes provision for any identified needs, such as school attendance;
  • The importance of engagement in education is stressed to children and attendance at school is encouraged;
  • Expectations around school attendance are written into Care Plans;
  • Social workers will work in partnership with schools, carers and other professionals working with the child to devise and implement strategies to support the young person address any issues with school attendance;
  • Make a decision on whether a planning meeting is required if informed that the child has hit attendance triggers to explore reasons for absence and possible interventions;
  • Work with school and carer on a plan to help the child catch up if they have missed any school;
  • If a child is due to move to another authority and will require a new school place the Virtual School must be informed immediately and an application made to the receiving authority to prevent any delay in provision being made available;
  • It is vital that holidays are not taken in term time as this takes away the child's opportunity to achieve their full potential and prevents them from accessing their full educational entitlement. Holidays should not be agreed without approval (in writing) from the Head of Service – and this should only be in exceptional circumstances;
  • Medical and dentist appointments should not be taken during the school day;
  • Where necessary, the Pan Merseyside - Safeguarding Children Partnerships: Missing Children Procedure must be followed.

3. Virtual School Role

  • Through the Virtual School the attendance of CLA will be monitored on a fortnightly basis and more frequently if there are attendance concerns;
  • When a child hits an attendance trigger this will be recorded on ICS;
  • Where there are concerns about the attendance of a young person a multi-agency meeting will be called and an action plan put in place;
  • Visits by School and Education Improvement Officers to schools on behalf of the Virtual School will include discussion about attendance in all cases and where issues arise any possible strategies, including the use of Pupil Premium Plus will be covered;
  • The Attendance Support Assistant for Children Looked After will work in partnership with schools, social workers, carers and directly with the child/young person to address any attendance issues;
  • Advice and support will be provided to schools, social workers and carers by the Virtual School;
  • School attendance will be included in the training delivered to foster carers by the Virtual School;
  • Virtual School will work with CLA to identify opportunities to effectively reward good and improving school attendance;
  • The Virtual School will provide reports and updates on the attendance and exclusions of CLA to meet statutory and local requirements (e.g. Corporate Parenting Board, Virtual School Governing Body.

4. When a Young Woman becomes Pregnant

Becoming pregnant is not in itself a reason to stop attending school, nor to cease education. Where a young woman becomes pregnant, the social worker must ensure that the young woman remains in education if at all possible and arrange for her to receive support from the education authority for the area in which she lives and/or the school she attends.

5. Children and Young People with Medical Conditions

From 1 September 2014, governing bodies have a statutory duty to make arrangements to support pupils at school with medical conditions. The Designated Medical Officer can support schools with these duties. For more information see Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions (2015): Statutory Guidance for Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools and Proprietors of Academies in England (DfE).