Possible penalties for non-attendance

Once you have registered your child at a school it is your responsibility to make sure that she/he attends regularly and punctually. If you fail to do so, the Local Authority has a statutory duty to consider legal action to enforce school attendance.

There are a number of legal measures that the Local Authority can pursue, these include:

  • being issued a voluntary parenting contract
  • receiving a penalty notice. This is a penalty notice of £60 per parent/carer for periods of unauthorised absence such as truancy, holidays in term time, lateness, unauthorised absence during formal exams, schools assessment or testing or poor patterns of attendance/punctuality
  • your child being issued with an education supervision order. This is an order where the child attends court and certain measures are put in place regarding attendance at school.
  • being prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court. This means you could receive a community order, a fine of up to £2,500 per parent/carer or a custodial sentence.

Penalty notices for non-attendance at school

A penalty notice may be issued as an alternative to prosecution. If it is paid it does not require a court appearance and does not result in a criminal record.

Section 444A of the Act gives powers to the local authority, and headteachers to issue Penalty Notices in circumstances where it is believed that a person has committed an offence under Section 444(1); that is, where a child fails to attend regularly at their registered school.

Who can be issued with a penalty notice

Where absence warrants the issuing of a penalty notice, anyone with parental responsibility, or having day to day care of the child can be issued with one penalty notice for each of the children with unauthorised absence. If two parents have two children this may result in four penalty notices, two penalty notices per parent.

Further unauthorised absence from school

If you pay the penalty notice and your child has further unauthorised absences additional legal action may be taken. For example, in the event that a penalty notice has previously been served to you due to unauthorised holiday, should your child have any future unauthorised leave this may result in further legal action for you, such as prosecution or an education supervision order.

Circumstances when a penalty notice are issued

As set down by the Department for Education, penalty notices can be issued for unauthorised absence. On the Isle of Wight, Penalty Notices can be issued when a pupil has had 10 or more half-day sessions (equivalent to five school days) of unauthorised absence, in the last 10 school week period.

Unauthorised absence is absence not approved by the school and will be coded on your child’s attendance record as one of the following:

  • O: unauthorised absence
  • U: late after close of registration
  • G: non-approved leave of absence (holiday).
  • L: persistent lateness code which reaches the threshold may result in the issuing of a penalty notice.

How a penalty notice is issued and amount of the invoice

Penalty notices are posted to your home. Each penalty notice invoice is £60 and should be made within 21 days of the invoice date. If the notice paid after 21 days but within 28 days, the penalty is £120. We cannot accept payment by instalment or part-payment for notices issued. If the penalty notice is not paid in full by the end of the 28-day period, unless withdrawn, the local authority will prosecute for the office to which the notice applies. The prosecution relates to irregular school attendance under the Education Act 1996 Section 444. If a parent is found guilty by the court of the offence, they will be liable to a fine, costs and victim surcharge as set out by the Magistrates. This is likely to be a considerably high amount than the original £60 penalty notice fine and will result in the parent having a criminal conviction against their name.

Written warning

If your child has an ongoing pattern of unauthorised absence then you will normally receive a written warning of the possibility of a penalty notice being issued. This warning will advise you about the extent of your child’s absence and warn you that if your child’s attendance does not show a significant improvement and if this improvement is not maintained thereafter, a penalty notice may be issued without further warning.

Further support, advice and guidance is available from the Department for Education.

No appeal process

There is no statutory right of appeal. Once a penalty notice has been issued, it can only be withdrawn if it can be shown that it was issued in error.