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Absence Codes

Absence codes when pupils are not present in school.


The following absence code definitions are taken from the government guidance document;

School attendance Guidance for maintained schools, academies,

independent schools and local authorities. May 2022.


Code C: leave of absence authorised by the school

Only exceptional circumstances warrant an authorised leave of absence. Schools should consider each application individually, considering the specific facts, circumstances, and relevant background context behind the request.


Code E: excluded but no alternative provision made

If no alternative provision is made for a pupil to continue their education whilst they are excluded but still on the admission register, they should be marked absent in the attendance register using Code E. Alternative provision must be arranged for each excluded pupil from the sixth consecutive day of any fixed period or permanent exclusion. Where alternative provision is made, they should be marked using the appropriate attendance code. 


Code H: holiday authorised by the school

Head Teachers should not grant leave of absence unless there are exceptional circumstances. The application must be made in advance, and the head teacher must be satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances based on the individual facts and circumstances of the case which warrant the leave. Where a leave of absence is granted, the head teacher will determine the number of days a pupil can be away from school. A leave of absence is granted entirely at the head teacher’s discretion.


Code I: illness (not medical or dental appointments)

Schools should advise parents to notify them on the first day the child cannot attend due to illness. Schools should authorise absences due to illness unless they have a genuine cause for concern about the veracity of an illness. If the authenticity of the illness is in doubt, schools can request parents to provide medical evidence to support the illness. Schools can record the absence as unauthorised if not satisfied with the authenticity of the illness but should advise parents of their intention. Schools are advised not to request medical evidence unnecessarily. Medical evidence can take the form of prescriptions, appointment cards, etc., rather than doctors’ notes.


Code M: medical or dental appointments

Missing registration for a medical or dental appointment is counted as an authorised absence. Schools should, however, encourage parents to make appointments out of school hours. Where this is not possible, the pupil should only be out of school for the minimum amount of time necessary for the appointment.


Code R: religious observance

Schools must treat absence as authorised when it is due to religious observance. The day must be exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which the parents belong. Where necessary, schools should seek advice from the parents’ religious body about whether it has set the day apart for religious observance.


Code T: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller absence

The generic term Traveller covers several different groups – Roma, English and Welsh Gypsies, Irish and Scottish Travellers, Showmen (fairground people) and Circus people, Bargees (occupational boat dwellers) and New Travellers.


This code should be used when Traveller families are known to be travelling for occupational purposes and have agreed this with the school, but it is not known whether the pupil is attending educational provision. It should not be used for any other types of absence by these groups.


To help ensure continuity of education for Traveller children, it is expected that the child should attend school elsewhere when their family is travelling and be dual registered at that school and the main school. Children from these groups whose families do not travel are expected to register at a school and attend as normal. They are subject to the same rules as other children in terms of the requirement to attend school regularly once registered at a school.


Code G: holiday not authorised by the school or in excess of the period determined by the head teacher.

If a school does not authorise a leave of absence for the purpose of a holiday, but the parents still take the child out of school, or the child is kept away for longer than was agreed, the absence is unauthorised. The regulations do not allow schools to give retrospective approval. If the parents did not apply for a leave of absence in advance, the absence must be recorded as unauthorised.


Code N: reason for absence not yet provided

Schools should follow up all unexplained and unexpected absences promptly. Every effort should be made to establish the reason for a pupil’s absence. When the reason for the pupil’s absence has been established, the register should be amended. This code should not be left on a pupil’s attendance record indefinitely; if no reason for absence is provided after a reasonable amount of time, it should be replaced with code O (absent from school without authorisation).


Code O: absent from school without authorisation

If the school is not satisfied with the reason given for absence, they should record it as unauthorised. Code U: arrived in school after registration closed. Schools should actively discourage late arrival, be alert to patterns of late arrival and seek an explanation from the parent.


An additional definition for Code S (Study leave), is not included here as it is not relevant to primary-age children.