Support and guidance for schools during COVID-19 (attendance)



To provide clarity for schools about attendance of pupils during the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure that schools understand the DfE requirements and local expectations. This advice is for all schools including special schools and Alternative Provision.


The 2019 - 2020 and 2020 - 2021 academic years were difficult for schools in terms of school attendance. However, as we move to stage 4 of the Government’s roadmap, the DfE has set out a plan for a return to normality from September 2021.

Compulsory School Attendance

As was the case in the summer term, school attendance is compulsory for all school aged children who are registered at a school. This includes special schools and alternative provision.

Non-attendance which is not authorised by the school (i.e. it is unauthorised) could lead to statutory interventions and a prosecution under Section 444 (1) Education Act, 1996 or the issue of a Penalty Notice under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, 2003.

Marking the Register

The register should record attendance in accordance with the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 (as amended) for all pupils.

The X code should be used if a pupil is self-isolating or quarantining because of COVID-19 in accordance with relevant legislation or guidance published by PHE or the DHSC. If they are in quarantine due to overseas travel, then this should also be an X code. If a pupil tests positive for COVID-19 they should be marked I for Illness. All other register codes apply and should be used accordingly.

Schools should complete the register twice daily as they are legally required to do. The register remains a legal document and will need to be produced as evidence if statutory interventions are ever instigated.

Encouraging regular school attendance

Schools should continue to communicate their expectations of attendance to families and other professionals who work with the family, where appropriate.

Schools should also identify pupils who are reluctant or anxious about attending or who are at risk of disengagement and should develop plans for re-engaging these pupils as soon as possible. An emphasis may be put on:

  • disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people
  • pupils who were persistently absent prior to the pandemic
  • pupils who have not engaged with school regularly during the pandemic

To support families who will need additional help to secure pupils’ regular attendance, schools can use the additional catch-up funding that has been provided, as well as existing pastoral and support services, attendance staff and pupil premium funding.

Schools should also work closely with other professionals across the education and health system, where appropriate, to support attendance. Please do continue to notify the pupil’s social worker, if they have one, of non-attendance.

MKC support

Please visit the MKC school attendance website if you need further advice and/or referral forms. Please apply to for a username and password if you don’t already have access to the site.


Last Updated: 6 September 2021