It is mandatory that all children aged between 5 and 16 years should receive a suitable education, and to this end parents and guardians are required to ensure that this is the case for their school age children, usually (but not always) by regular attendance at a school. Two registers are maintained by every school, with the exception of boarding schools. One is the admissions register, usually referred to as the school roll, and the other is the attendance register. It is a requirement of head teachers to ensure that the attendance register is taken twice each day, once at the beginning of the school day and again in the afternoon. Pupils are marked as present, or as engaged off‐site in an educational activity (for example, a field trip), or as absent. For those pupils who are absent, it must be indicated on the register whether that absence has been authorized by the school (for example, in cases of sickness or where some other satisfactory explanation has been provided). Unauthorized absences, which include unexplained or unjustified absences, are closely monitored, and it is a requirement of head teachers that they inform the local authority of any pupil whose attendance is irregular or who has had a continuous unauthorized absence of ten days. The enforcement of attendance is usually a role carried out by the local authority Welfare Service, whose personnel work closely with the school and family concerned to improve the pupil's attendance. Since 1 March 2001 parents who fail to ensure their child's attendance have been liable to a penalty of up to £2 500, or up to a three‐month prison sentence, or both of these. See also Education Otherwise than at School; truancy.
Department for Education and Skills Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Circular 10/99 (DfES, 1999) sets out the requirements for marking registers and the categories of authorized and unauthorized absence.