Missing school for other reasons
There are lots of reasons why your child may miss school. No matter what the reason, your child has the right to an education and to the support that they need.
This page explains some of the reasons why your child might miss school and the support available for them. You may also want to read our other pages: Missing school due to anxiety and other mental health needs, and Missing school due to physical health needs.
What does the law say?
Your child has the right to an education, even when they are not able to attend their school. Your local authority has a duty to make sure that your child can continue learning while they are absent. This includes if your child is absent for one long period, or if they often miss school for shorter periods. This might mean sending work home, arranging online learning, or providing learning in a different setting (sometimes called ‘alternative provision’).
Your child is considered to have ‘additional support needs’ if they need extra or different help to other children their age, for any reason. The law does not say what this support should look like because it should be based on their individual needs. Pupils might need support for many different reasons, and missing a lot of time from school can also lead to a pupil needing extra support, for example if they need help to catch up on work they have missed.
Missing school because of bullying
Your child should feel safe at school, so it is understandable that they might want to avoid school if they are being bullied. It is important to talk to your child about what steps they want to take. Sometimes, a child will feel better just by telling someone, and they may not want to do anything more. However, if your child is not going to school, you might need to take further action.
You could contact your child’s school to let them know that your child is not attending. They should have an anti-bullying policy. Together with you and your child, their school should take steps to tackle the bullying and find a way to help your child return to school.
Talking to your child’s school about bullying
Practical advice to help you if you are concerned your child is being bullied.
I’m not happy with how my child’s school is responding to bullying
Practical advice if you are not happy with how your child’s school has addressed your concerns about bullying.
Missing school because of bereavement
Bereavement can have a huge impact on a child and their family. Your child may need or want to take some time off from school. It is important to let your child’s school know why they will not be in school.
Bereavement is an additional support need. This means your child’s school should provide your child with the support they need to cope with their loss and return to school. They should work with you and your child to decide what support will best meet their needs.
Missing school because of issues at home, e.g. being a young carer
Sometimes, things happening at home can mean your child does not attend school. For example, young carers may have to miss school because of their caring responsibilities. It is important to let your child’s school know as soon as possible if they cannot attend, and if you can, the reasons for this.
Your child’s school should help support them to attend school as much as they can. Your child still has the right to an education even if they cannot go to school. If your child is going to be off school for a longer period, their school should help by providing them with learning to do at home. This might mean sending work home, providing access to online learning, or arranging for learning in a different setting (sometimes called ‘alternative provision’).
School refusal or truanting
If your child is refusing to go to school, it is important to let the school know as soon as you can. Your child’s school should work with you and your child to identify the reasons why they do not want to go to school.
Some things to think about:
- is your child avoiding a particular subject?
- are there particular times of day that they avoid?
- do they have mental health needs that mean they don’t want to attend?
- are there things happening at home that are creating stress or worry?
Once the reasons for your child’s school refusal are understood, the school should create a support plan that focuses on their individual needs. Your child has the right to the support they need to reach their fullest potential at school, and this can include support to attend. Support might mean reducing or removing the problems that are stopping your child from going to school or adding in additional support measures to help them.
There are particular rules about exclusion that all schools in Scotland must follow. If your child has been excluded, there are steps that you can take. These are explained, in detail, on our Exclusion from school page and in our factsheet on Exclusion from school.
Exclusion from school
This factsheet explains when a school can exclude a pupil, the procedures the school must follow, and how you can appeal an exclusion.
Missing school because of Covid-19
Covid-19 has had a big impact on learning for children across Scotland. If you have concerns around how your child has been, or continues to be, affected by Covid-19, you should first speak with their school.
If your child is not able to attend school because of Covid-19, you should follow the current government guidance. You can find this here: [government pages?]
If your child is struggling to attend school because of reasons related to Covid-19, such as anxiety or bereavement, you should contact their school. You should let them know why your child is struggling, so that they can work with you to get the right support in place. This can include support to help your child to return to school, as well as support once they are back in the classroom.
Can I keep my child off school?
If you are concerned about your child’s safety or support at school, it is understandable that you may want to keep them at home until the issues are resolved. However, it is important to be aware of the laws around school attendance.
As a parent, you are responsible for ensuring that your child has access to an education while they are of ‘school age’ (from age 5 until they turn 16). This means you are responsible for supporting your child to attend school.
By law, your child should only be off school with a ‘reasonable excuse’ so it is important to let your child’s school know the reasons why they will be off, and to try and work together with them to find a solution. If your relationship with the school has broken down, you could try contacting the local authority directly.
Avoiding and solving problems
This factsheet explains the steps you can take if you are worried or unhappy about your child’s support, and some of the further steps you can take if you are in a disagreement with a local authority.
What happens if my child’s school is concerned about their absences?
Your child has the right to an education, and under Scottish law, they must regularly attend school while they are of ‘school age’ – from 5 until they turn 16. If your child is off regularly and the school do not know why, they may mark it as ‘unauthorised absence’. The school should first work with you and your child to help them to return to school and understand what is going on for them. However, if needed, further support might be introduced, such as an attendance officer or home-school link worker.
Following this, if they are very concerned about your child’s attendance and feel you are not fulfilling your duty to educate your child, the local authority could take action against you. There is much more information on this in our School attendance factsheet.