Carers Trust, the UK's largest carers' charity, is today calling on the government not to punish or stigmatise young carers who are absent from school.
New research from the Department for Education says "even short breaks from school can reduce a pupil's chances of succeeding at school by as much as a quarter" and highlights "the importance of clamping down on pupil absence to ensure more pupils regularly attend school".
However, the research and the policy take no account of children and young people's circumstances. There are young carers in every school class - a survey carried out by the BBC in 2010 estimated there were 700,000 young carers in the UK, equivalent to 1 in 12 school children. On average young carers will miss half a day of school each fortnight as a result of their caring role*.
Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy at Carers Trust said: "We are concerned that this policy ignores the reasons why young carers may miss school - that is because they are caring for a family member, rather than because they are on holiday.
"Schools should ask if high absences are linked to their pupil being a young carer who lacks support, or is being bullied. The last thing young carers need is for their absences to be punished or stigmatised.
"We agree that young carers should be in school, and they need the right support for them and their families to enable them to be there.
"The failure to recognise young carers in policy on schools can be seen in the criteria for Pupil Premium. Our Fair Start campaign calls on the government to include all young carers in the pupil premium criteria, which provides additional support in schools for disadvantaged students.
"Policy-makers need to listen to children and young people with caring responsibilities and make sure they get support they need to attend, enjoy and achieve at school."