There is no absolute legal obligation on children to attend school nor on their parents to send them to school. However, the state is required to ensure that every child gets a certain minimum education. The legislation governing school attendance is the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.
The Child & Family Agency (TUSLA)
The Child and Family Agency, TUSLA is responsible for ensuring that each child aged between six and 16 attends a recognised school or receives a certain minimum education.The Agency's emphasis is on helping schools, families and children, rather than imposing penalties for non-attendance at school. It employs educational welfare officers at local level throughout the country to provide support and advice to parents and schools and to follow up on absences from school.
Responsibilities of Schools
Schools are obliged to keep a register of the students attending the school. They must also maintain attendance records for all students and inform the Child and Family Agency's educational welfare services if a child is absent for more than 20 days in a school year.
The principal must also inform the Child and Family Agency's educational welfare services if, in his/her view, a student has an attendance problem.
School Attendance Strategy
The Board of Management in each school is obliged to prepare a school attendance strategy and submit it to the Agency.
The statement will provide for
- The rewarding of students who have good attendance records
- The identification of students who are at risk of dropping out at an early stage
- The establishment of closer contacts between the school and the families concerned
- The co-ordination with other schools of programmes aimed at promoting good behaviour and encouraging attendance
- The identification of aspects of the operation and management of the school and of the curriculum that may contribute to truancy and the removal of those aspects in so far as they are not necessary for the proper running of the school.
With the consent of the parents, the Agency may arrange for an examination of the intellectual, emotional or physical development of a child. If the parent refuses consent, the Agency may apply to the Circuit Court for an order that the examination be carried out. The Circuit Court may grant the order if it is satisfied that the child's behaviour, lack of educational progress or regular absence from school without a reasonable excuse warrants an examination.
Responsibilities of parents
Under the Act parents must inform the school if their children will be absent from school on a school day and the reason for the absence. It is best to do this in writing. The Child and Family Agency strongly advises against taking children out of school to go on holiday during term-time. Parents and guardians have a legal obligation to ensure that their child attends a school or otherwise receives an education.
If the Agency considers that a parent is failing in his or her obligation to send a child to school, it must send the parent a School Attendance Notice warning that legal action would follow if the child did not attend school regularly. Before doing this, it must make reasonable efforts to consult with the parents and the child.
If the parent fails to comply, he or she may be prosecuted. If convicted, the parent may be fined €634.87 and/or imprisoned for a month and fined €253.95 for each subsequent day that he or she fails to send the child to school. If the parent claims that suitable alternative education is being provided, he or she must prove this.
It will be a defence for the parents to show that they have made all reasonable efforts to send the child to school - in such cases, the Child and Family Agency must be informed.
The leaflet for parent Don't let your child miss out is available in 18 languages
Education outside the school system
The Minister may prescribe minimum standards of education for those educated outside the recognised school system. The Agency is obliged to maintain a register of children who are receiving education but not attending a recognised school. In effect, this register will show the names of children who are being educated at home or in a non-recognised school.
Parents whose children are not attending a recognised school must register their child with the agency. Parents who are having difficulties ensuring their children’s attendance at school can contact an Child and Family Agency's educational welfare services educational welfare officer for advice and help with this
. View the contact list for educational welfare officers
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