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Improving your child’s school attendance

Things to consider if you’re struggling to get your child to go to school

All children have to attend a school or home education from 5 to 16 years old. This is called the compulsory school age.

There are lots of reasons a child’s school attendance may drop.

These include:

  • accidents, illnesses or medical conditions
  • school refusal (that is, a child refusing to go to school)
  • truancy (that is, a child skipping school or classes)
  • taking your child on holiday during term time
  • difficulties at home, such as a child caring for a family member

If your child has an accident, illness or medical condition, contact the school as soon as you can to tell them what’s happened and update them regularly.

If your child is not well enough to attend school, but could do learning at home or remotely, ask your school how you can support your child’s education during this time.

But if there are no medical reasons for your child missing school, you should take action to get them back in the classroom.

Set an example

How you talk about school and attendance is important.

Be mindful. Don’t say negative things about school. Be clear that school is an important part of everyday life. One simple way you can reinforce this is to tell your children that it’s ‘time to get up for school’ on weekdays, not just ‘time to get up’.

Make any appointments outside of school hours where you can, and do not take your child on holiday during term time.

Understand why your child doesn’t want to go to school

Before you can help your child, it’s important to understand why they don’t want to go to school.

Talk to your child openly and honestly about why they don’t like school.

Work with them to make a list of what they like and don’t like. Lists can help children organise their thoughts, and communicate with you more easily.

Next, talk to your child’s school to see if you can find any reasons why they don’t want to go.

You can ask:

  • has there been conflict with other pupils or teachers?
  • Is your child being bullied?
  • are there classes your child is struggling with?
  • are there particular classes, days or times of the day your child is missing?
  • does the school think your child has special educational needs (SEN)?
  • what would the school recommend or are there any changes that could be trialled?

Establish routines

Try to get into a morning routine at home and see how your child responds.

Some people need to prepare mentally for the day ahead, and your child may need more time to get ready before school.

Talk about their morning routine, and how long they need to take a bath or shower, get dressed and have breakfast. Having a regular routine where your child is always focused on the next task can be a good way to motivate them.

Breakfast can also be used as an opportunity to talk, relax, and make the day ahead seem less daunting.

Be open with your child’s school

Stay in contact with your child’s school, and ask them for support when you encounter problems.

Explain what you’re doing to improve your child’s school attendance and ask for their advice.

For tips on working with your child's school, visit Young Minds.