School attendance difficulties

What to do about school attendance

Children and young people can sometimes experience difficulties attending school. It is important schools and families work together to understand why a pupil may not be attending school. 
Read more about school attendance and absence on

Physical illness 

A child may be unable to attend school because of ongoing medical conditions or other physical or mental health issues.

Visit the GOV.UK website for information and guidance on illness and your child’s education.

Emotionally-Based School Avoidance (EBSA) 

Attending school may cause children with EBSA to experience challenging emotional distress. This can lead to reduced attendance and further anxiety about school.  
Advice and guidance on EBSA can be found on the SEND IASS website.  
You can also watch a learning video on the Essex County Council YouTube channel.  
Advice for parents about medical referrals for pupils who are ill, pregnant or have EBSA can be found on the Essex Infolink website.

Parents choosing to let their child stay at home

Parents may allow their child to stay at home. This could be: 

  • to help with care 
  • following a disagreement with the school 
  • to keep their parent company 
  • to educate their child at home 

We call this parentally permissive absence.  

Information and support available for Young Carers can be found on  

There is information on home education on

Children choosing to stay at home

When a child chooses to stay at home, it may be called a self-determined absence when: 

  • there are no signs that the child is emotional distressed at the thought of attending school  
  • they are seeking a pleasant or rewarding experience by not attending school (sometimes this may be staying in their room)

Parents and carers may also be unaware of their child’s location. 
You can find practical ideas to support children and young people to attend school, including those with self-determined absence, on The Young Minds website.

Understanding your school's attendance policy

Make sure you are familiar with the school’s attendance policy. This should make the support available to you and your child clear. The policy should be on their website, with paper copies be available in school. 

You can read the Essex County Council guidance on school attendance and absence on the Essex County Council website.

From September 2024, every school will have a named senior attendance champion. This should be a member of the senior leadership team. They should make sure there's coordination between the: 

  • school attendance officer
  • designated safeguarding lead

Who to speak to

The first person to speak to could be the school attendance officer or the child’s teacher. They should be able to support you following the ‘Let’s Talk… We Miss You’ school guidance.  
You may feel your child’s attendance difficulties are a result of their special educational need or disability. Speak to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) at the school or contact the Educational Psychology helpline for advice.

Find out more about what a SENCO is and how they can help.

If you require additional support or guidance in relation to school attendance, you can speak to the Attendance Specialist Team in your area. 

Find out what mental health support is available to you and your child. 

If you are working with social care, they can also support you. 

Find local support

There are groups, charities and other parents in Essex who understand what you are going through.

Search for local support