Going to School

  • In Wales, you have to be in education between the ages of 5 and 16 – although you can stay in school for longer – until you are 18 - if you want
  • Most children in Wales go to school, but you don’t have to go to school as long as you are getting an education
  • Your parents have to choose where they would like you to go to school, or whether to make arrangements for you to be educated somewhere else or to teach you themselves

Wherever you live in Wales, you can go to school between the ages of 5 and 16. Your parents have to decide which school you should go to. As you get older, you might have an opinion about which school you should go to, so you can talk to your parents or the people responsible for making these sorts of decisions, about what you want. You should be able to go and visit the schools in your area so you and your parents can make a proper decision about which school will be right for you.

You’re learning all the time, whether you’re in school or not, but school is where most children and young people in Wales receive a big part of their education. If your parents have chosen a school for you and you are registered there, they should make sure you go to school regularly. As you get older, and have more independence, you might not want to go to school, but until you are 16, your parents have to make sure that you go to school. If you don’t turn up to school, you may end up being excluded from school and arrangements may be made for you to learn somewhere else.

Sometimes, school isn’t the right place for you to learn, or you can’t go to school, so the Local Authority will be able to talk to you about other places you can go to get your education. Some parents do choose to educate their children at home, and they are allowed to do this provided you are getting an education. You can find out more about being educated at home or somewhere else, here.

You can leave school on the last Friday in June in the school year when you will turn 16. As long as you will be 16 before the end of the summer holidays in that year, you can leave school.

In Wales, there is no requirement to stay in school once you are 16, but equally, you can stay in education if you want to. You might want to carry on in school until you are 18, especially if you want to go on to university. You should be able to stay in school until you’re 18. Alternatively, you can leave school and continue your education at a Sixth Form College.

Depending on where you live In Wales, you may have a choice whether to go to a Welsh Medium school, an English medium school, or a bilingual school. More and more schools are teaching through Welsh, and you will learn Welsh whichever kind of school you go to. Find out more about Welsh of English in school here.

There may be schools in your area which are ‘faith’ schools. ‘Faith’ schools will have a particular religious character – it could be Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or another faith.

As well as state schools, which are the schools funded and organised by the local authority, there are independent schools. You usually have to pay to go to an independent school.

You should have a voice in any decision that affects you – and the school you go to is one of the biggest decisions that affect most children. If you are really unhappy with the decision of your parents, and you have tried to talk to them, you might be able to talk to someone at school.

If there are things at school that are making you unhappy, like bullying by other pupils or by a teacher, you should try and talk to someone about it so that things can be done to help. Decisions made about you should always be based on what’s best for you – and sometimes this might mean moving school.

If you don’t go to the school where you are registered, you can end up getting into trouble. You can find out more about what can happen if you don’t go to the school where you are registered here.

If you‘re registered at a school you’re supposed to go every day unless there’s a good reason why not. If you are sick, you can’t go to school. You might have to go to a hospital appointment, or there might be another reason why you can’t go to school. You will need to tell the school what is happening, or else the absence will be ‘unauthorised’.

If the reason why you can’t go to school is likely to last for some time – for example  if you have an illness that is going to last for a long time, or if you have been excluded then other arrangements will be made for you to have your education.

In Wales, if you go to a ‘maintained school’, your parents or carer can ask your school to allow you to have up to 10 days off school to go on holiday. If the head teacher agrees, you will be able to go on holiday instead of going to school, and the time off will be authorised by school. The head teacher has to think about all the factors – including when the holiday will be, how long you are going for, and what you will be going to do, what impact it might have on your learning, your family circumstances and your parents or carers’ wishes, and what your attendance is like at school generally.

Sometimes, depending on the situation, you may be allowed longer than 10 days.

If there aren’t enough places for all the children who want to go to a particular school, this is called ‘oversubscription’. There will be a policy in place which says which children will be offered places if this happens. The policy has to be fair. You can’t be refused a place at a Welsh-Medium school because you don’t speak Welsh. The school can’t take into account your behaviour (unless you have already been excluded from 2 or more schools in the past), or any additional learning needs you might have. The school can’t make decisions about whether you get a place or not based on your parents, or based on the behaviour of your brother or sister at the school.

If there are enough places for everyone who has applied, then every child should get a place. If there are not enough places, a school can’t decide that you can’t go there because you have a disability, or because of your religion, unless the school is a ‘faith’ school, or because you have been permanently excluded from another school.

If there aren’t enough places, the school will have an oversubscription policy which explains who will get the places that are available. The policy has to be applied to every child who wants a place. Children who are ‘looked after’ or have been looked after in the past will take priority. Other factors which can be taken into account include:

  • If you have a brother or a sister already at the school
  • If you have a twin, or are one of triplets etc
  • If you have a medical need which makes it more important for you to go to a particular school – perhaps because it is closer to hospital
  • How far away from the school you live
  • If a school is based on a particular faith or religion, it will be allowed to give priority to children from the same faith or religion

The school must explain its oversubscription policy in a way that is easy to understand.

Schools are allowed to give out places at sixth form (years 12 and 13) based on ‘ability’. They may do this by saying that you have to get a minimum number of GCSEs achieved at a particular grade e.g. 5 GCSEs at grade C or higher. Even if you don’t have to get a minimum number of GCSEs to go to Sixth Form, this can be used by the school if too many people apply for a place in Sixth Form.

If you aren’t given a place at the primary school or secondary school you want to go to, your parents can appeal against that decision.

If you don’t get a place in the Sixth Form you would like to go to, you can appeal yourself, as well as your parents.

You will be sent details of how to appeal by your Local Authority when they send you the decision about which school you can go to. Your appeal will be heard by an Independent Appeal Panel. The people who will decide your appeal won’t be employed by the school or the Local Authority. You can only appeal once in any school year.

If you have a statement of Special Educational Needs, your appeal about where you should go to school will be looked at by the Special Educational Needs Tribunal in Wales.

There’s nothing to stop you and your parents applying to change school. You might have been having trouble with bullying in the school you started in, or you might move house and want to go to a school that is closer to your new home. This might also happen if you have been permanently excluded from one school, or if you can’t live with your parents anymore and go somewhere else to live – perhaps with another relative or with foster parents.

Even if you’re not sure how long you will be staying somewhere, you can still go to school there – and as long as there is space in the school that you want to go to, you should be able to register there.

You can get in touch with the Local Authority or get in touch with the school itself to find out more about the school and to find out how to apply. As long as there is enough space for you to join the school, you should be able to go there.

In Wales, all children have the right to education. It doesn’t matter where you have come from. If you are aged between 5 and 16, you have to go to school in Wales. If you want to stay in school and study for A levels or another qualification this should be possible whatever your immigration status, until you are 18.