Education Welfare Service

The Education Welfare Service (EWS) supports parents and carers to fulfil their statutory responsibility in ensuring that children attend school regularly.

The Education Welfare Service works in partnership with schools, parents, EA Services and other professionals to reduce pupil absence and to raise achievement, enabling young people to maximise their educational opportunities and potential.

Education Welfare Officers can offer advice to parents and schools on attendance related matters such as bullying, suspensions and expulsions and school transfer procedures.

Why regular attendance at school is important

There can be many advantages for children who attend school regularly. Pupils with good attendance will generally:

  • Be less anxious about going to school.
  • Achieve more in school.
  • Feel happier in school.
  • Find it easier to make and keep friends at school.
  • Have access to school clubs, activities and sports.
  • Do better in tests and examinations.
  • Have better prospects of employment and training when leaving school.

Factors Affecting School Attendance

There are a number of factors which may have an impact on a child’s attendance at school and we can offer advice to parents on these matters.

  • Bullying
  • Suspensions and Expulsions
  • School transfer procedures
  • School based factors
  • Home based factors
  • Personal factors
  • Sickness
  • Punctuality
  • Relationships

How can Education Welfare Service help

Each school has a named Education Welfare Officer (EWO). The EWO works with the school to help bring about an improvement in the schools level of attendance and to reduce unauthorised absences and truancy.

EWO's provide the following support:

  • Regular audits of attendance.
  • Input and support when there are concerns about a pupil’s level of attendance.
  • Be a link between school and home so that the young person attends school regularly again. 
  • Advice and assistance to schools when they review and update their school attendance policies.
  • Input to procedures and initiatives that schools may introduce to improve their school attendance.
  • Advice and guidance to teaching staff and school administrative staff in relation to any queries they may with regards to the coding of the school register in line with current DE Circular 2022/07 - Attendance Guidance & Absence Recording By Schools

What parents can do to help

Parents can help their child(ren) by:

  • Establishing a good routine with regards to school from an early age.
    • This can include ensuring your child goes to bed and gets up each morning at an appropriate time for school;
    • arrives punctually;
    • attends school regularly; and
    • ensure homework’s are completed.
  • Notifying the school as soon as possible if your child has to miss school.
  • Providing a note/explanation in relation to the absence(s) as soon as your child returns to school.
  • Maintaining good communication and regular contact with your child’s school.
  • Raising any problems or difficulties with the school as quickly as possible.

What schools can do to help

Schools can help by:

  • Monitoring and establishing if there are identified patterns of non-attendance.
  • Identifying factors that may be affecting a young person’s school attendance (school, home, medical, personal).
  • Discussing concerns with the young person and their parents.
  • Making reasonable adjustments to the young person’s learning environment when required.
  • Discussing and considering referrals to other appropriate EA Services, eg. behaviour support, education psychology, special education and/or health & voluntary services.
  • Convening multi-agency support meetings to consider other relevant supports that may be available to help the family.

What happens if my child has low School Attendance?

Pupils whose attendance at school falls below 85% and where there is a concern, may be referred to the Education Welfare Service to receive support.

The majority of referrals are made by schools. These referrals must evidence all the interventions/supports that the school has put in place to address their concerns.

Referrals are also accepted from other sources such as parents, social workers and other agencies e.g. family support hubs and other Education Authority services. A parent/carer must always be informed that a referral has been made to the Education Welfare Service.

EWS Customer Standards

The Education Welfare Service (EWS) is committed to the highest standards of service delivery to support the children and young people we work with, our schools and parents.

What we will do for you


  • Identify the needs of any young person referred to the service in a timely manner.
  • Clearly explain our processes, what information we need from you and confirm or provide an indication as to when we will allocate your referral.
  • Indicate timescales for EWS involvement for those cases which have been placed on a waiting list for support.
  • Work within the bounds of confidentiality.
  • Keep you up to date on the progress of your referral and EWS involvement.
  • Signpost you to other professionals and services when support from external agencies or other Education Authority (EA) departments is required.
  • Work with young people, their family and school staff to improve school attendance and to resolve any school related issues or concerns.
  • Develop, implement and continually improve our packages of work when supporting our young people, families and schools.
  • Make parents and young people aware of the legal requirement for children of compulsory school age to attend school regularly and highlight the negative impact that non-attendance can have on a child fulfilling their educational potential at school and doing well in examinations.
  • Explain the Court process to parents and young people should a case be brought to the attention of the Court.
  • Strive to protect the rights of young people and their families and to advocate for the families we work with. 
  • Attend multidisciplinary meetings, case conferences and Children Looked After meetings in line with our Education Welfare Service responsibilities.
  • Complete individual, family and group work when required. Our staff can offer guidance and support on the following themes (including but not limited to):
    • Why school matters; 
    • Attending school regularly; 
    • Resilience; 
    • Confidence; 
    • Online Safety; and
    • Bullying

In line with the EA vision and values you can expect us to:

  • Be polite, friendly, professional and to treat everyone fairly and with respect. 
  • Be open, honest and transparent. 
  • Be empathetic and to listen and respond to your needs. 
  • Maintain confidentiality. 
  • Seek to deliver the best possible resolution for the young people referred to us.
  • Base our assessments on evidence.
  • Adhere to Child Protection and Adult Safeguarding procedures. 
  • Respond in a timely manner to referrals, queries and requests for information.
  • Be registered with Northern Ireland Social Care Council and to adhere to their Code of Conduct.

Strategic Objectives of the Education Welfare Service

  • Improve pupil attendance at school. 
  • Empower parents to meet their legal responsibilities regarding school attendance through a partnership approach. 
  • Operate within agreed criteria for referrals from schools and others and to respond appropriately to these. 
  • Assist schools to develop mechanisms and strategies for monitoring and reviewing pupil attendance. 
  • Engage with children and families in a structured and purposeful way with a view to improving attendance at school, to include capacity building. 
  • Engage in efficient and effective partnerships in the best interests of the child or young person.
  • Establish effective working relationships with appropriate external agencies from the statutory, voluntary and community sectors to help meet the needs of children and families requiring support. 
  • Challenge, support and inspire our young people to be the best that they can be.
Last updated: 03/08/2023