Electronic attendance registers to become mandatory

A DfE consultation paper presents a raft of proposals on changes to school attendance records, including those for pupils engaged in remote learning

School attendance and admissions registers will have to be held electronically, under plans announced in a new Department for Education (DfE) consultation paper.

The proposals were first mooted as part of January announcement by the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, that the DfE was looking to tighten the rules around pupil absence.

That month, the department began to trial a real-time attendance tracker which, it claims, “most” schools have now signed up to. As well as insisting that all schools switch to such a system, the government is proposing that both local authorities and central government be given access to the data.

Part of the consultation is a reaction to a changed landscape in post-pandemic education. Despite the ubiquity of remote learning during full lockdown, a pupil’s home-based participation in education cannot currently be recorded in the attendance register; instead, schools keep a separate record.

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“We recognise that as remote education technology develops, and schools maintain their capabilities to deliver remote education in cases where it is not possible for pupils to attend face-to-face lessons, there may be a need for this type of participation to be recorded,” reads the paper.

“As such, we propose that the new regulations provide for remote education to be recorded as ‘attending any other place for approved remote education’ where it meets a specific set of criteria.”

Other proposals include:

  • Setting a national threshold of fines for unauthorised absence, rather than leaving it to the discretion of individual heads and councils
  • After two fines for the same child in a school year, any further offence should prompt consideration of prosecuting the parent
  • Simplifying the terminology by which reasons for absence are recorded
  • Schools to inform councils when it is clear that sickness will prevent a pupil from attendingschool for an aggregate total of 15 days or more
  • Recording reasons for absence should extend to pupils of non-compulsory school age
  • Revising the methods and criteria by which pupils are deleted from admission registers
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