The law says that parents and carers whose children of compulsory school age are absent from school without good reason are committing an offence, and those parents may be prosecuted in a magistrates' court.
Section 23 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 introduced additional powers under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 authorising local authorities to issue penalty notices in cases of unauthorised absence from school.
When will a penalty notice be issued?
The school attendance service will always aim to ensure schools, parents and carers work together to improve pupil attendance. However, we do have the responsibility to issue penalty notices in the following situations where unauthorised absence occurs:
- following 10 sessions (five days) of unauthorised absence in a term
- parentally-condoned absences
- unauthorised leave of absence in term-time
- late arrival at school after the register has closed
Parents and carers will always be issued with a formal written warning of the intention to issue a penalty notice, before the notice is sent out. The only exception to this is if you have a leave of absence in term time without permission of the school, as a penalty notice can be issued immediately in those circumstances.
On receipt of the warning, you will have 30school days to improve your child’s attendance. In that time your child must have no unauthorised absences from school. If your child's attendance improves and there are no further unauthorised absences, you will not receive a penalty notice. Please be aware that there is no legal right of appeal once a notice has been issued against you.
How do I pay and what happens if I don’t pay the penalty notice?
Details of payment arrangements will be included on the penalty notice. The penalty must be paid in full. The penalty is £60 if paid within 21 days, increasing to £120 if paid between 21 and 28 days.
If you do not pay the penalty in full within 28 days of issue, the council is required to start legal proceedings against you in the local magistrates' court for the original offence of failing to ensure your child attends school regularly. This may lead to a fine of up to £1,000.
Once payment of a penalty notice has been made parents and carers will no longer be liable for their child’s absence from school during the period to which the notice relates. But, if your child has further periods of unauthorised absence from school, the local authority may decide to issue further penalty notices.
Further information relating to penalty notices is available for download below.