Can schools backdate deletion from the register to the start of a pupil’s absence?

Where a child stops attending, the regulations provide that pupils can be removed from the register if they have been continuously absent for a period of 20 days or more, subject to 3 conditions.

Firstly, at no time was the absence authorised. Secondly the school does not have grounds to believe that the pupil is unwell or absent due to any other unavoidable cause, and thirdly the school and local authority have failed, after making reasonable enquiries, to locate the pupil.

In these situations, particularly as it takes some time to make reasonable enquiries, schools would often like to backdate the removal to when the child stopped attending school. The time it takes to make enquiries adversely affects a school’s persistent absence figures. Schools in high-mobility areas can be put at a disadvantage in this regard. However, the regulations do not allow schools to “backdate” the removal from roll in any circumstances. As such, enquiries into an absent student’s whereabouts should be carried out promptly to avoid any delay of their removal from the register.

This includes where a child fails to return from holiday, without explanation, the school must make all reasonable enquiries to establish why before removing them from the register.

Which regulations govern maintenance of the school roll?

The contents and maintenance of the school roll is governed by the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006. Under Regulation 12 schools are now legally required to notify their Local Authority of every new entry to the admission register within five days of the pupil being enrolled and every deletion from the school register as soon as one of the statutory grounds for deletion has been satisfied and not later than the date on which the pupil is removed from roll.

A school cannot legally remove compulsory school-age children from roll, even if a parent makes the request in writing, unless one of the circumstances set out in Regulation 8 of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 is met.

Can a permanently excluded pupil be retrospectively removed from the roll?

Regulation 8 also specifies that a pupil who has been permanently excluded from a school can be removed from the roll (Reg 8 (1) (m)). The Regulations go on to define permanent exclusion as not being effected until the proprietor has discharged its duties under regulations made under section 51A of the Education Act 2002, and: the parent has stated in writing that they do not intend to apply for a review under those regulations; the time for applying for a review has expired and no review has been applied for within that time; or a review applied for within that time has been determined or abandoned.

So, the pupil cannot be removed from the roll before one of these events has occurred. This does not therefore allow for retrospective removal from the roll. Paragraph 86 of the exclusions guidance confirms this by giving guidance on marking attendance registers following exclusion.

School Inspection Handbook Guidance

Schools need to take care when removing pupils from roll and ensure that they do so lawfully as this is something that Ofsted will consider in any inspection. The School Inspection Handbook states: “Inspectors will also challenge leaders and managers about unusual patterns in the way that the school records attendance, including the use of inaccurate register codes or changes to when the register is taken. For example, if inspectors reasonably believe that a school is inaccurately recording attendance, has changed the timing of session registration to game attendance rates or is using part-time timetables inappropriately, then inspectors are likely to judge leadership and management to be inadequate”.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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