Portsmouth City Council has legal responsibilities relating to school attendance. It is our guiding principle that each child has a fundamental right to be educated and any failure to do so by the parent denies them greater life opportunities.

Pupils need to attend school regularly to benefit from their education. Missing out on lessons leaves children vulnerable to falling behind. Children with irregular attendance tend to achieve less in both primary and secondary school. The council:

  • promotes regular attendance and reduces absence
  • ensures every pupil has access to full-time education to which they are entitled
  • acts early to address the issue of absence

The school attendance service has roles and responsibilities defined in law and has legal powers that can be used with parents who fail to ensure their child's regular attendance at school.

This service is dedicated to improving and maintaining pupil attendance and investigates the causes of poor attendance. When a young person has a record of absences, or has stopped going to school, we will become involved with schools, parents, other agencies and courts to restore that attendance. 

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.

Parents may educate their children at home (elective home education), rather than at school, if they choose to do so. There are guidelines and a leaflet for parents available to download below.

For more information contact the school attendance service on 023 9284 1419 or email electivehomeeducation@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

Education Otherwise is one of the organisations who provide advice for home educators. Gov.uk also provides more information on home education.  

Elective home education

If you intend to home educate and your child is already registered at a school, you are required to deregister that child from school in writing, so that your child's name can be removed from the school roll. You can re-enrol your child at school at any time and this can be done through our usual admission process.

For further information or advice contact the school attendance service on the number above.

If your child is not registered at a school, please let Portsmouth City Council know in writing that you are intending to home educate. 

The council has a responsibility to ensure all children are receiving an adequate education. This means we will discuss your home education plans with you, and may ask you to provide examples of work, or we may wish to make a home visit. 

If we feel the arrangements you have made are not satisfactory, you will be given a reasonable period of time to improve the situation.  If, after this time, we are still not satisfied with your arrangements, the council may initiate school attendance order proceedings.

Portsmouth City Council has legal responsibilities relating to children in employment and entertainment. These responsibilities are discharged by the school attendance service.

Follow the links for further information on children in entertainment and children in employment.

Other councils and appropriate organisations can contact our dedicated officer dealing with children missing education by:


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