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Case update 11 December 2021

Update: Education Secretary (finally) tells schools how to treat absences for clinically vulnerable children

After repeated pushes and further threats of legal action, the Education Secretary has confirmed to schools that his hardline approach to attendance does not prevent them from authorising absences for children from clinically vulnerable families.

After making that concession back in October, the Education Secretary then announced an ever more uncompromising approach to attendance which seemed to overturn it. Last week, he confirmed to Good Law Project that this was not his intention, but failed to explain that to schools. 

But, he has now issued a clarification which is welcome, if overdue, by sending schools updated guidance. This reiterates that, “as usual, schools are able to grant leaves of absence for pupils in exceptional circumstances”. This important disclaimer was missing from the letter he sent to schools in November asking them to deploy enforcement measures in order to maximise attendance.

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As a new variant spreads and the country enters ‘Plan B’ measures, many families unhappily find themselves in exactly the kind of “exceptional circumstances” that justify taking their children out of classes. 

Now, parents, children, teachers and headteachers can all read from the same page as to the rules and exceptions. We trust that schools will continue to recognise that they have the discretion, and in some cases the legal duty, to authorise absences for children for whom going to school represents a particular risk. 

You can read more about this saga of Government miscommunication and clarification here

Read the full letter from the Education Secretary to Good Law Project here

We encourage parents to share the guidance with their child’s school to ensure they are following the most up-to-date instructions.

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