Your child should attend school every day unless there is an unavoidable cause like illness.

Good school attendance gives your child the opportunity for success and helps develop skills for life. Missing school damages a pupil’s learning and their grades, disrupts routines and can make pupils vulnerable to crime. Pupils should never miss school for reasons like shopping, birthdays or to wait in for a repair person.

Research shows that 17 days of school missed often leads to a drop of a GCSE grade. Missing school seriously affects life opportunities.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. Penalty Notices

You are committing an offence if your child doesn’t attend school regularly and it is not agreed by the school (unauthorised absence). In some cases unauthorised absence may result in prosecution.

Penalty Notices were introduced as an alternative to prosecution. If paid within deadlines, a Penalty Notice does not require a court appearance, but still aims to improve attendance.

Cost of a Penalty Notice

Fines are issued by the council on behalf of schools and are:

  • £60 per parent, per child. if payment is made within 21 days,
  • £120 per parent, per child. if paid after this but within 28 days.

You have up to 28 days from receipt to pay the Penalty Notice in full. If full payment is not received within this time, we are required under the Act to commence proceedings in the Magistrates Court for the original offence of unauthorised absence by your child.

If proven, this can result in fines of up to £2,500 and/or a range of measures such as Parenting Orders, Community Sentences and imprisonment.

If a parent is found guilty of the offence of failing to secure appropriate levels of attendance the parent will receive a criminal record.

When Penalty Notices are used

When the school agrees for your child to miss school in advance or accepts your explanation, absence is ‘authorised’. All other absence is ‘unauthorised’.

Penalty Notices may be used where absence is unauthorised, for example when:

  • a parent has taken their child on holiday during term without authorisation, especially when this means pupils miss exams, eg SATs or GCSEs.
  • enquiries made at school after a truancy sweep show the pupil’s absence at that time as unauthorised
  • pupils are regularly late for school after the register has closed.
  • a pupil has eight or more unauthorised absences within the previous ten week period.

2. If a child continues to miss school

Prosecution might be considered for further periods of unauthorised absence not covered by the Penalty Notice, depending upon the circumstances. If this is an issue, it is vital that you work closely with your child’s school and support agencies.

3. Truancy

If your child is truanting you can:

  • talk to them to find out why
  • meet with a member of school staff to discuss the situation and look for solutions
  • contact the school for advice and guidance
  • try to understand what is happening for your child and help them resolve the problem

Education is key to their future success so it is important you deal with the situation.

4.  If your child is off school

Telephone the school as early as possible on the first morning of their absence to give the reason.

Make routine dentist and doctor appointments after school or during holidays. If you have to make an appointment during school time, help your child to be at school for most of the day and let the school know about the appointment. You may be asked for a medical certificate or appointment card if your child is regularly absent due to illness or dental/medical appointments.

Holidays in term time are not normally authorised. In exceptional circumstances ask permission from the head teacher and check the school policy.