What are the rules on attendance for English language students?
The immigration service (INIS) expects students to be able to show a minimum of 85% attendance if they are applying to renew their immigration permission. Only the immigration service can make a decision on whether a student will be permitted to renew with a lower attendance figure.
What does this mean for schools?
INIS says that schools recruiting non-EEA students should make them aware of the 85% attendance figure as 'mandatory' (compulsory). Schools must also have a written 'absenteeism and expulsion policy' available on their website for situations where a student is regularly absent from class. The immigration service says this policy needs to be (i) fair, (ii) notified to the student before they enrol (iii) explained in a language they can reasonably understand, (iv) include a series of steps and warnings before any expulsion, (v) include a right to appeal.
The immigration service does not tell schools exactly what to write in their policy. Different schools have different policies written at different times. However, all policies currently in place should follow the same basic principles identified by INIS guidelines in June 2015. These basic principles are in an important protection for students.
Schools should make sure that all students know about minimum attendance requirements and the 'absenteeism and expulsion' policy when they book a course. For example, it should form a clear part of terms and conditions on an application form.
When is a school allowed to expel a student for low attendance?
Expulsion should be a last resort and students should have plenty of chance to improve attendance after written warnings.
If a school has followed its policy and given a number of written warnings, it can expel a student for low attendance. A student should be informed in writing and told of their right to appeal and how to do this.
What counts as 'low attendance' will depend on the school's policy.
Does the immigration service require schools to expel students with attendance below 85%?
No. Whether or not an expulsion is justified will depend on circumstances, a school's expulsion policy and a student's contract with the school. There is no immigration service requirement that students be expelled below a particular attendance figure.
INIS says: "The most important element in addressing non attendance is that it be communicated without delay to the Immigration authorities (GNIB and INIS)."
INIS say there are two reasons why a school should write to immigration:
If a student cannot reach 85% attendance, INIS say they must be "informed [by the school] that they do not meet the attendance requirements and this fact will be communicated to the GNIB and INIS."
INIS make clear that the 85% attendance figure is over the length of the course rather than on a per week or per month basis and that "a certain amount of leeway is permissible for the student in line with the above guidelines."
Letters from a school to the immigration authorities may mean that a student who applies to renew their GNIB card is turned down or given only a short-term renewal to improve attendance. However, this is an immigration service decision, not a school decision.
My school expelled me / is threatening to expel me and I don't think it has followed the rules. What can I do?
First, carefully check the expulsion policy of your school and the agreement/contract you made with them when you booked. Did you agree to a minimum attendance in your contract? Has the school has followed its policy correctly, with several clear written warnings and the chance to improve your attendance? Did you get the right to appeal?
If you require advice from ICOS, you should email us with as much information as possible and attaching (i) the expulsion policy of the school (ii) any contract or agreement you made when you booked (iii) copies of any warning letters and other correspondence.
Last updated: January 2016