School attendance and truancy

We offer advice and assistance to help your child make the most of school through regular attendance.

Why regular school attendance is important

Children between the ages of 5 and 16 are expected to attend school regularly, that is every day the school is open, unless they are unable to due to exceptional circumstances or unavoidable reasons, such as illness.

There may be other reasons why a child fails to attend school. It could be due to bullying, peer pressure to truant, difficulties with schoolwork or family issues, etc.

The importance of regular school attendance cannot be underestimated. The impact of just a small number of days’ absence has a significant negative affect on a child’s life chances. For example:

  • Of pupils who miss more than 50% of school, only three per cent manage to achieve the expected five GCSE 9 – 4 grades (previously A* to Cs) – including Maths and English.
  • Of pupils who miss between 10% and 20% of school, only 35 per cent manage to achieve the expected five GCSE 9 – 4 grades.
  • Of pupils who miss less than five per cent of school, 73% achieve the expected five GCSE 9 – 4 grades.

It is parents’ responsibility to ensure children attend school regularly, and this is clear in law under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996).

Working in partnership

The Education Welfare Service (EWS) offers support to families of children attending a number of Wandsworth schools. The EWS has a team of Education Welfare Officers (EWOs) who are part of Children’s Services and work alongside social workers and Early Help practitioners, as well as partners in health and the police. Working within a wider network of support services means the reasons for pupil absence are identified and addressed early on so that children can make the most of the educational opportunities available to them.

Some schools directly employ their own Education Welfare Officer. All schools have their own attendance lead, who usually works in the school office and is in contact with parents on a daily basis.

Working to improve attendance

When attendance concerns emerge, parents are usually invited to attend a School Attendance Panel (SAP). This meeting in school gives parents the opportunity to share what is going on for the family, and for parents, the school and EWS to agree how to work together to improve the situation. If problems persist, a school may make a referral to the EWS and the school’s allocated EWO will begin to work with the family on the issues affecting attendance. This support may involve other professionals outlined above.


In some cases, parents do not accept support, or the support being provided does not make a positive difference. Here, the EWS may need to consider escalation to statutory services, such as social care, or sanctioning parents by issuing a Penalty Notice fine or instigating legal proceedings.

Penalty Notice fines for non-attendance range from £60 to £120 per child, per parent. The cost can be even higher if court action is taken. Full details about the local authority’s Code of Conduct on Penalty Notices can be found below.

Further information


Parents can get in touch with the Education Welfare Office (EWO) at their child’s school via the school office.

Alternatively, the EWS can be contacted directly at or on 020 8871 8306.