The DfE's Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance has been updated to confirm that school attendance became mandatory for all pupils from 8 March. The DfE is clear that schools should not be using rota systems as there is no requirement to reduce occupancy in schools.
This means that the usual rules on school attendance will apply, and schools are responsible for recording attendance, following up on absences in the usual way and reporting children missing education to the local authority.
All clinically extremely vulnerable pupils should be attending school, unless they have been advised by a GP or clinician not to attend.
There is separate guidance for years 11 to 13 exam cohort on attendance during the 2021 summer term.
From 1 April 2021, those children who are clinically extremely vulnerable are no longer advised to shield. All children who are clinically extremely vulnerable should be attending school, unless advised by a GP or clinician not to attendance. Where pupils are not able to attend school because they are following clinical or public health advice related to COVID-19, the absence will not be penalised.
The DfE's Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance states that schools should be working with local authorities to engage with any family abroad, where the pupil has not returned to seek to understand the circumstances of that pupil and the plans for their return to school.
Families should be encouraged to return their children to school, and should be reminded that school attendance is mandatory.
Schools should be recording attendance in accordance with the Education (Pupil Registration)(England) Regulations 2006 (as amended). The DfE has stated in their Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance that further advice will be provided to schools about the information that should be included on attendance in the end of year reports.
Where a pupil is self-isolating in accordance with government guidance or legislation, Code X should be used in the register. Where a pupil is unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances, such as a national emergency causing widespread disruption to travel, Code Y will apply.
The DfE has confirmed that Code Y is unlikely to apply where families have not returned to the UK, if they have chosen to stay abroad. In those circumstances, schools should consider the authorised and unauthorised absence codes to identify the appropriate codes in each particular instance.
The DfE's Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance recognises that in other years, those taking public examinations in years 11 to 13 would normally have a period of study leave around those exams.
Because all grades must be submitted by 18 June 2021, it is recognised that work that is done after the May half term break may not contribute to those grades. Schools should therefore make appropriate judgements on the activities for pupils during this period. The guidance recognises that this may not be full-time provision but could include alternative activities such as: visits to education provides, independent study, remote provision or attendance in person.
Schools are encouraged to 'maximise opportunities that meet the progression needs' of pupils during this time.