Blog entry by Astrid Dinneen

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EMTAS Education Advisor Sue Nash discusses how the T code should be used by schools when their Traveller pupils are absent due to their parents travelling for work purposes and how schools can support their Traveller pupils through the provision of distance learning work. 

© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018

Hampshire EMTAS regularly receives enquiries from schools about the T code and when or how it should be used. From the nature of these enquiries it has become clear that there is confusion over exactly when the T code should be used.  This blog seeks to clarify its use and to give examples of good practice around supporting Traveller pupils whilst they are away from school.

What are attendance codes?

There is a statutory national system which schools must use to record pupil absence. This comprises a number of single letter codes which are used in registers. The use of these codes enables schools to record and monitor attendance and absence in a consistent way which complies with the regulations.  Hampshire schools must follow the regulations and therefore when pupils are absent the school needs to decide which absence code to use.  It is important that this information is factually correct as unauthorised absences can result in a penalty notice being issued.

What is the T code?

The T code is one of the statutory codes.  It should be used when a child fulfils all of the following:

  1. is ascribed as Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT) or a Showman (children of circus and fairground families)

  2. has attended more than 200 sessions of school in any rolling 12 month period if the child is over the age of 6

  3. the child’s family has requested leave of absence to travel for economic purposes i.e. work (DfE, 2016).

If all of the above criteria are not met the T code should not be used.  Crucially, the school needs to have evidence that the family’s reason for travelling is to earn a livelihood. This is typically seasonal for fairs, horse fairs, festivals and circus events.  If the family are travelling for other reasons such as attending a wedding or other social events then the T code must not be used. 

What about Traveller children whose families do not travel?

The T code should never be used for these children as they do not meet all of the criteria above.  These children should be expected to attend school regularly in the same way as any other pupil.

Can the T code be used for Traveller children who live in houses?

Yes, a GRT family that lives in a house but travels in the course of their trade or business can have their children’s absence from school recorded with the T code.

What about children who attend a different school when they are away travelling?

It is good practice for children from GRT and Showmen families to attend school in the location where their parents are working if possible.  In these circumstances the child should be dual registered both at that school and their main school. The D code should be used in the register of the child’s main school when they are absent due to attendance at another school at which they are also registered.

Research into the use of the T code in Hampshire

As a result of the volume of enquiries that EMTAS were receiving about the use of the T code a year long project looking into the use of the T code in two groups of Hampshire schools was conducted by myself and Lisa Kalim, Specialist Teacher Advisor. The full report can be found on the EMTAS website.

Findings revealed a general lack of clarity around the appropriate use of the T code. In particular there was a lack of understanding that the GRT family had to be travelling for work purposes in order for the T code to be used.  For example it was found that the T code had been used for children who had been absent due to a family dispute, for children who were missing in education or who were moving to a new school.  The project also revealed the T code had been used for whole classes of children gone on a school trip as the T had mistakenly been thought to stand for ‘trip’. 

How can schools support pupils who go travelling for work purposes?

Schools should provide distance learning work when their GRT pupils are away travelling. Currently lots of schools report not offering any distance learning work at all. EMTAS currently promotes this by showing sample packs of distance learning work suitable for different age groups from Year R to Year 11. The sample packs include practical items such as stationery that the pupil will need together with stamped addressed envelopes for them to return their work via the post as well as examples of activities. Alternatively, schools could use email to send and return work electronically or another approach could be to use resources such as a talking photo album in which pupils could record their work.  Skype calls or Facetime could also be used so pupils can keep in touch with their base school.

Where to get help

Hampshire EMTAS runs a Traveller phone line every Monday during term-time between 11am and 1pm.  If a school has any questions about the T code or distance learning then they can call 01256 330195 and speak to a Traveller Education Advisor.


DfE (2016): School attendance Guidance for maintained schools, academies, independent schools and local authorities. London: HMSO.

Nash, S. & Kalim, L. (March 2017) A study into the use of the T code by two groups of schools in Hampshire focusing on the accuracy of its use, the notice given by parents to schools about their travelling plans and if schools are setting distance learning work appropriately [online] (accessed 03.05.2018)

Also see

Hampshire County Council (May 2014) ‘Section 6: effective practice document for school attendance procedures and admissions for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children’ in: Promoting pupil attendance and recording absence [online] (accessed 03.05.2018)

[ Modified: Tuesday, 26 June 2018, 12:16 PM ]