Support for schools - help with a child's attendance issues

It is essential for pupils to attend school regularly in order to maximise the opportunities available to them. We investigate cases of irregular attendance, provide advice to schools on managing attendance and if necessary carry out legal enforcement measures.

The importance of early identification, assessment and intervention cannot be over emphasised.

There are 2 main areas that will cover why a child is not legitimately attending school (excluding sickness):

  • term time absence - this may be an unauthorised holiday or other unexplained absence taking place in term-time
  • irregular attendance - this is, generally, a longer series of short absences where there has been an unsatisfactory explanation for the absence or no reason provided

Evidence has shown that tackling absence can be most effective when a number of different approaches are adopted. The initiatives used by schools to encourage attendance are partly dictated by a number of factors including the age of pupils, parental interest, geographical location and social and economic circumstances. Individual schools need to respond to their own particular problems in their own way. The following approaches may help in the development of a robust attendance strategy.

Have an attendance policy in place

A school’s attendance policy should set out its systems and procedures for ensuring regular school attendance and investigating the underlying causes of poor attendance. It is important that it is not just one member of staff who writes the policy. The policy will be more meaningful if developed in consultation with teachers, pupils, families, the Education Inclusion and Partnership Team (EIPT) administrative and ancillary staff, governors and senior management.

The key components of an attendance policy should include the following:

The principles underlying the policy and how they apply to the whole school community, including how:

  • the policy ties in to the school’s approach to promoting emotional wellbeing
  • the policy links with the school’s other policies
  • these principles relate to the school’s overall aims and relate to the rest of the curriculum.

Aims and targets

Set specific but realistic targets for improving and maintaining attendance figures and review the resources a school invests in improving attendance.

The rights, roles and responsibilities of governors, staff, pupils and parents

Details of the school’s partnership agreement with the Education Inclusion and Partnership Team (EIPT):

  • the legal responsibilities of the LA, school and parents should be cited
  • emphasis on a partnership approach between senior management, governors, and those working to support attendance with parents and pupils should be outlined


  • the stages, processes and staffing involved in registration
  • the system for lateness
  • how and when problems with attendance are communicated to parents 
  • processes used to reintegrate students returning to school after an absence
  • referral criteria to support service

Strategies used by the school in the area of attendance:

  • how rewards and sanctions are used to encourage regular attendance
  • methods and means of achieving the school’s strategies, including any training required for staff involved in implementation

Monitoring and evaluation

  • How the school will evaluate the effectiveness of its strategies
  • When will monitoring and evaluation take place?
  • Who will be involved in monitoring and evaluation and how will they contribute?
  • How evaluations will be fed back into policy

Make use of electronic registration

Where possible and practicable schools should record registration electronically. Electronic attendance registration software enables more effective and efficient monitoring of attendance on a daily basis as well as allowing the identification of longer-term trends in absence which can be used to inform school policy and practice.

Electronic packages that automate the contacting of parents to inform them of their child’s absence have also proven effective in reducing absence and locating children and young people. It also enables registration for each lesson, and the identification of lateness and post-registration truancy.

Use the correct and appropriate attendance codes

Registration procedures need to be clearly outlined in the school’s attendance policy and repeated in the staff handbook. Accurate recording is essential in order to meet legal requirements and promote the safety of all pupils.

Different schools will have different procedures for allocating attendance and absence codes. In most schools, this will involve the form or class teacher; however, it is important for all staff to have a general understanding of when each code may be used and its statistical meaning. Staff responsible for entering codes should have a thorough understanding of the issues regarding attendance. Staff should also be aware of when and to whom they should refer instances of absence in accordance with school guidelines.

For example, a school might decide that it requires tutors to refer all pupils when absence through sickness exceeds a certain percentage in the year. Clear guidance also needs to be given on what constitutes ‘other authorised circumstances’ so that a consistent approach is maintained across the school.

See full guidance on the use of codes and an explanation of the regulations governing the keeping of pupil registers.

Make use of the data available

All schools hold a great deal of information about attendance. Schools that have been successful in improving attendance and reducing persistent absence have a clear understanding of the attendance issues within the school - they identify these through analysis of data. Anecdotal evidence about reasons for absence and patterns of absence can be misleading.

Attendance data helps strategic planning and can enable schools to manage attendance issues more effectively.

Whole school attendance figures produced monthly, termly or yearly, based on year groups, can indicate factors such as:

  • declining attendance in year groupings
  • the effect of seasonal attendance e.g. attendance may decline during colder months and preceding school holidays

Weekly figures may illustrate the:

  • effect of staff absenteeism
  • all in attendance preceding teacher training days, half terms, study leave or work experience
  •  effect of ending terms on a Monday or Tuesday
  • effect of activity days, day trips or residential trips
  • effect of the timing of the school day
  • effect of pupil holidays in term time

Continuous analysis of individual pupil attendance and of the whole school can give scope for strategic planning. By identifying those levels which the school considers are indicators of persistent absenteeism or irregular attendance, it is possible to identify the extent of the problem.

The school can then target time provided by the education welfare officer and pastoral staff more effectively by producing:

  • individual attendance records which highlight reasons for absence and the pattern and rate of unauthorised absence
  • obtain lists of all pupils with unexplained absence which can be fed back to the responsible member of staff

The pastoral staff will then be able to identify those pupils who give cause for concern. Coded absence, broken down into a class and/or group format, would allow identification of excessive unauthorised absences.

Have a first day contact system in place

Schools should emphasise parents’ prime responsibility for ensuring attendance by asking parents to inform them as soon as possible if their child will not be attending school on a particular day. If a pupil is absent without explanation, school administrative staff should, wherever possible, contact the parents that same day, including in cases where the pupil skips lessons after registration.

A declared and active policy of first day contact makes clear to pupils and parents that absence is a matter of concern and will be followed up. By contacting the parent the school also ensures that the parent is aware that their child is not in school enabling the parent to take steps, where necessary, to establish that their child is safe. This approach is made easier if the school has electronic registration which can automatically generate contact lists for absent pupils.

Where the absence is due to illness, school staff should ensure that they speak to the parent about the reasons for absence. They should refer to the Department of Health (DoH) guidance on infection control in schools and other childcare settings (2016) for guidance on the length of absence. Whilst this will not eradicate absence through illness it may reduce the number of days lost.

Raise the profile of attendance

Schools can raise the profile of attendance with parents and the wider community through the use of home-school agreements, parents’ evenings, school newsletters, or other communications. Many schools send out letters automatically if attendance falls below a certain level.

Posters and leaflets can be used in numerous ways to promote attendance. These can cover every feature of attendance and can be distributed through schools as well as locations such as libraries, leisure centres and other community focussed locations. Some authorities have used websites or promotional advert slots on local radio in order to ensure that the issue remains in the public domain.

Others produce information booklets for schools to distribute 4 to parents advising of school attendance regulations, child employment and the role of the Educational Inclusion and Partnership Team. These can be paid for by selling advertising space to local companies.

When welcoming and inducting new parents and pupils it is important to raise awareness of the importance of punctuality and attendance. As part of staff induction brief new staff on the school’s philosophy on attendance and introduce them to their responsibilities for attendance management.

Involve parents

Communicate frequently with parents about positive achievements and improvements and in ways which emphasise the responsibility and role of parents in partnership with the school. Ensure parents are welcomed into the school and can gain easy access to staff.

It can be helpful to issue regular reminders to parents of school procedures for notifying the school of a pupil’s absence. Some schools have installed a dedicated ‘attendance’ telephone line specifically for parents to inform the school of absences. To overcome attendance problems, it can be useful to have meetings with parents to discuss strategies in school and at home which encourage regular school attendance and the production of an action plan for improving attendance.

Draw up a parenting contract - this is a contract drawn up between the school and the child's parents to improve the child's attendance record and prevent legal action being taken. You can email us at [email protected] to request a template.

Target support

The use of targeted intervention and support in areas of specific need can be very effective in improving attendance, particularly when working in partnership with the Educational Inclusion and Partnership Team and the local authority. Consider starting an Early Help Assessment.

Use rewards and incentives to encourage attendance and punctuality

Research has shown that rewards are far more effective than punishment in motivating pupils. As well as encouraging and rewarding attendance, these schemes can also increase the profile of attendance, both within the school and in the wider community.

Letters to parents and carers and special privileges are amongst many particularly effective ways of demonstrating praise for good or improved attendance. A more formal reward system of credits, merits and prizes can be used to recognise and congratulate pupils.

Positively reintegrate absentees

When a pupil has been late or absent it is important to positively welcome them into the class on their return. By offering extended support and ensuring absent pupils have work adapted to help them catch up will help minimise problems on their return to school.

Make use of attendance checks

The use of both scheduled and unscheduled checks can be used to monitor lateness. “Late gates” is one initiative that has been used in both primary and secondary schools. This involves school staff taking the names of late arrivals. Letters are then sent home informing parents that their child has been stopped for being late. All parents are informed beforehand that the “Late gate” will be happening but are not given a specific date.

Incorporate attendance into transition planning

The transition between primary and secondary school represents a major change for most pupils and research shows that many can experience a slowing down of their progress. It is important for both primary and secondary school attendance policies to identify year 6 and 7 pupils in particular need of support. Secondary schools and their feeder primary schools need to work together to put in place arrangements to manage the transition.

Issuing a penalty notice

Penalty notices can be issued under the following circumstances as an alternative to Magistrates' Court proceedings. However we would expect schools to follow their attendance procedures in identifying the issues and putting support in place.

  • Penalty notices for non-school attendance - to issue a penalty notice, there should be 5 days (10 sessions) or more unauthorised absences in a 6 week period.
  • Penalty notices for term time absence - to issue a penalty notice, there should be 5 days (10 sessions) or more of consecutive unauthorised absence.

Before issuing a penalty notice, please ensure you have completed the penalty notice checklist below.

Our enforcement policy below aims to promote good practise and the principals for good enforcement, summarising how to conduct enforcement with openness, setting standards and consistency.

The criteria below is best practice for schools considering the use of a penalty notice and does not replace existing legislation nor associated evidential burden

Before completing form

  • Has the period for which the PN is requested been recorded as unauthorised?
  • Are there any missing marks or coding irregularities?
  • Does coding on the register accurately reflect the dates for which the PN is being requested?
  • Is the reason for the request indicated on the form (e.g. unauthorised holiday or unauthorised absence)?
  • Have the parents or carers been informed that they could receive a PN?

Criteria for issuing a penalty notice

  • 5 days or more continuous absence
  • Can be used as a sanction for irregular attendance. A PN may be used in this instance where a pupil accumulates 10 sessions of unauthorised absence within a 6-week period

Documentation to accompany irregular attendance request

  • Completed contact form
  • Attendance certificate ensuring all absences are coded as unauthorised (e.g. no ‘N’ codes)
  • Evidence of actions taken – letters issued, notes of meetings held, Parent Contact Meeting (PCM) chronology, offer of Early Help Assessment (EHA) 
  • Evidence that the parent or carer has been notified that they may receive a PN (this can be within documentation of school website, in behaviour policy, in newsletters to parents etc. 

If a Leave of Absence Request Form is completed by parent or carer

  • Copy of request for leave of absence received from parent/carer and signed by all relevant parents or carers and any letter pertaining to that request
  • Signed evidence that school have informed parent or carer in writing that absence will be unauthorised and that this could lead to a PN being issued
  • Reasons for not authorising the holiday should be clearly stated to parent or carer
  • Up to date registration certificate showing the period of absence as unauthorised ‘G’

If a Leave of Absence Request Form has not been completed by parent or carer

  • Up to date attendance certificate showing the period of absence as unauthorised ‘G’ and the date of return
  • Evidence as to why the school believe that the absence was for the purpose of a leave of absence
  • Signed copy of letter to parent from the head teacher stating that the absence will be coded as unauthorised as it is believed to be for the purposes of a leave of absence without exceptional circumstance and that this could lead to a PN being issued

Completing contact form

  • Parents’ full name and surname. Please include parents’ date of birth where known.
  • If there are 2 parents, details of both parents should be completed
  • Address should be checked
  • A PN will be issued individually to both parent or carers
  • The contact form should only be submitted once the child has returned to school. If the child fails to return, then the school should follow their missing child procedures
  • Documentation provided by the school which supports the request for a PN by the Local Authority can be used as evidence should any legal action be taken. All cases where there is non-payment of the PN would be considered for a prosecution under s.444 of the Education Act 1996
  • In the event that the case proceeds to a prosecution, school staff may be required to provide a written witness statement and may be required to give evidence in court


Regular and punctual attendance of pupils at schools is, under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, a legal requirement, parents being responsible for ensuring that any child of compulsory school age receives efficient full-time education that is suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have.

Compulsory school age is defined as commencing at the start of term on or after a child’s fifth birthday and concluding on the last Friday in June of the school year in which the pupil becomes 16.

It is essential for pupils to attend school regularly in order to maximise the opportunities available to them. The Educational Inclusion and Partnership Team (EIPT) investigate cases of irregular attendance and instigate statutory intervention where appropriate.

This enforcement policy aims to promote good practise and the principals for good enforcement, summarising how to conduct enforcement with openness, setting standards and consistency, to:

  • to uphold the law fairly
  • prevent and detect offending
  • act with integrity, common sense and sound judgement

In doing so the EIPT will ensure that:

  • when an allegation is reported or an offence suspected of being committed a thorough investigation will follow
  • the exercise of legal powers should not be oppressive to the issue under investigation
  • as far as operationally practical and with due regard to an individual’s right to confidentiality, investigations should be as transparent as possible in keeping those involved up to date
  • we will take reasonable steps to understand the individual’s needs, e.g. culture, religion, belief, sexuality, lifestyle, disability etc. (Race Relations and Equality Acts), have regard for vulnerable adults and children and respect the professional ethics of others

Any consideration for a prosecution should meet both the evidential test and also the public interest test. All cases should have due regard to the Crown Prosecution Service code of conduct.

Guidance and Legislation

The EIPT is authorised to operate this code and must have regard to the following legislation and guidance: 

  • The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
  • Attendance and Enforcement Policy September 2020 review September 2021
  • The Race Relations (Statutory Duties) Order 
  • 2001 Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Data 
  • Protection Act 1998
  • Children Act 1989
  • Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Special Needs Code of Practice 2003
  • Ensuring School Attendance: Guidance on the Legal Measures to Secure Regular School Attendance 2003
  • Education Act 1996

The EIPT team supports the Local Authority in carrying out their statutory duties with regards to promoting regular attendance at school.

Irregular attendance raises complex issues. Pupils may be failing to attend school for a variety of reasons. Some reasons may be outside the immediate control of the school, but good practice and appropriate responses within the school to identify the needs can help to improve attendance. It is therefore important that that there are clearly defined criteria and procedures for referring non-attenders to the EIPT. The important of early identification, assessment and intervention cannot be over emphasised.

Policy for Prosecution

The parent/s of any pupil of compulsory schools age who fails to achieve regular attendance will be considered for legal processing unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Education Act 1996 Section 444 - Failure to Ensure Regular Attendance

Section 444(1) - Where a parent/carer is failing in their duty to ensure regular attendance at school and school have made attempts to engage and support. Where, following this intervention the unauthorised absence continues and no statutory defences apply, the EIPT will consider instigating legal proceedings.

Section 444(1A) - Where a parent/carer is failing in their duty to ensure regular attendance at school and school have made attempts to engage and support. Where, following this intervention the unauthorised absence continues and no statutory defences apply, the EIPT will consider instigating legal proceedings. Where it can also be proved the parent/carer knew about the poor attendance and failed, without reasonable justification to ensure regular attendance then legal enforcement will be taken under this section.

In the case of both s444 and s.444 (1a) an unpaid Penalty Notice (issued in accordance with the LA Penalty Notice Code of Conduct (revised September 2016) may form part of the evidence.

Education (Penalty Notice) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

Penalty Notices (PN) for Non-School Attendance - These will be issued as an alternative to Magistrates’ Court proceedings wherever it is appropriate and in accordance with the Local Authority Code of Conduct. To issue a PN, there should be 5 days (10 sessions) or more unauthorised absences in a 6-week period however we would expect schools to follow their attendance procedures in identifying the issues and putting support in place.

Penalty Notices for term time absence - These will be issued as an alternative to Magistrates Court Proceedings whenever it is appropriate and in accordance with the Local Authority Code of Conduct. To issue a PN, there should be 5 days (10 sessions) or more of consecutive unauthorised absence.

Determining whether to issue a penalty notice or take court proceedings

Court proceedings should be taken if:

  • a Parenting Order is appropriate - If the parent or carer has been to court within the last 1 year - the PN Code of Conduct indicates that we should usually return to court. normally on the aggravated offence if the additional evidential tests can be satisfied
  • the parent or carer has had a PN within the last 12 months for the child in question then court proceedings should be taken (unless the PN related to a holiday in which case a further PN can be issued) - if by issuing a PN vital evidence will be lost if the PN is unpaid then court proceedings should be taken

If the EIPT is already moving towards a prosecution relating to ongoing unauthorised absence and the pupil has unauthorised leave of absence, no PN should be issued for this and the unauthorised absence should be included in the prosecution period.

Where a child has had 2 periods of unauthorised leave for which the parent has been issued with a PN, on the third occasion, no PN will be issued and that parent will be prosecuted under S444(1) as long as parent was warned that this would happen.

Where a parent has previously been prosecuted for a period of unauthorised leave, unless there is a reason not to, the usual action for a further occasion of unauthorised leave would be to proceed to Court and not to issue a further PN.

In the case of ongoing unauthorised absence, unless it is not in the public interest to proceed, Penalty Notice or legal enforcement action may be taken when the level of unauthorised absence exceeds 10% or more. Penalty Notice payment levels are fixed in law. However, where there is sufficient reason to allow payment beyond the 28 days, this will be agreed. The decision on whether there is sufficient reason rests with the EIPT Prosecution Officer who may agree late payment in order to ensure consistency and fairness.

Penalty Notices issued in relation to unauthorised leave of absence are referred to in the EIPT Penalty Notice Code of Conduct. Prosecution will follow if Penalty Notices are unpaid.

Where a case requires further investigation prior to making a decision whether to proceed to Court, the parent/s will be requested to attend a Formal Caution Interview under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

The duty of instigating court procedures in delegated to the EIP Team. A summons will be issued and served and a representative from the EIP Team will attend court and present the case on behalf of the LA. In certain circumstances e.g. trials legal services will be instructed.

A certificate signed by the head teacher confirming the child’s school attendance during the period of prosecution referred to in the summons will be required as documentary evidence by the court. Only unauthorised absence can be used in evidence.

If parents are acting responsibly, but cannot ensure regular attendance of their child/children because of the attitude of the child/children then consideration should be given to applying for an Education Supervision Order.

Education Supervision Order (ESO)

An ESO is an Order made by the Family Proceedings Court under Section 36 of the Children’s Act 1989. The initial order is for 1 year but application can be made to extend the order yearly for up to 3 years. The court must be satisfied that a child of compulsory school age is not being property educated and that the making of the order would be better for the child than making no order at all.

In addition, the court shall have regard in particular to:

  • he ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding)
  • the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstance
  • the child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics that the court considers relevant
  • the capability of each parent in meeting the child’s needs together with any other person whom the court considers appropriate
  • any harm the child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering
  • the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question

Under the terms of the Order, the Supervising Officer must “advise, assist and befriend” the child and the family, whilst the child and family must abide by the “directions” that the court lays down and any other reasonable direction of the Supervising Officer. Failure by the parent to follow these directions would mean returning to court when a fine of up to £2,500 could be imposed. In addition, the parent may be imprisoned for up to 3 months.

Failure by the child to follow these directions could lead to the statutory involvement of social care.

There may be some situation in which an ESO is unlikely to be effective. Where, for example, parents would be hostile to such intervention. It may not be possible to undertake the structured programme of work that is necessary. At all times, the Supervising Officer will need to operate within a structure that defines clear aims and objectives.

This will be requiring a planned and realistic programme of intervention, including directions where necessary, which will specify how the aims and objectives are to be achieved. The active involvement of parents, children and schools will aid the success.

Education Supervision Orders, as the name implies, require a great deal of time spent with the pupil supervising them and encouraging them to change patterns of behaviour. They have a limited effectiveness, as many of the strategies that could be applied may have already been tried. Where parents are cooperative this relationship can effectively be developed through Early Help support teams rather than applying for an Order.

Exclusion Penalty Notices

For a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school and is excluded from that school either for a fixed period or permanently, their parent or carer is guilty of an offence under Section 103 of the Education and inspections Act 2006 if that child is present in a public place during school’s hours without reasonable justification during the first 5 days of each and every fixed period or permanent exclusion.

Parenting Orders

The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act allows courts to make a Parenting Order for cases on non-school attendance brought under sections 443 and 444 of the Education Act 1996. The aim of the order is to increase parenting support and to encourage parent/s to develop better parenting skills.

A Parenting Order can consist of 2 requirements:

  • a requirement of the parents or guardian to attend counselling or guidance sessions, these can last up to 3 months
  • a requirement encouraging the parent or guardian to exercise a measure of control over the child - that the parent ensure that the child attends school regularly)

These orders can last up to 12 months.

Education Act 1996 Section 443 - Failure to Comply with School Attendance Order

Where a parent or carer is failing in their duty to ensure their child is receiving an education in accordance with section 7 Education Act 1996, i.e. in that the child is not on roll at a school, nor is the parent or carer making their own arrangements for that child’s education, the EIPT, ;having followed the requirements under Section 437- 442 of the Act issues a School Attendance Order. Where the parent/carer fails to comply with the Order, a Section 443 prosecution will be taken in the Magistrates’ Court.

Penalty Notices to address absences and poor attendance at school or alternative provision


  1. The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to ensure that the associated powers are applied consistently and fairly across the Local Authority area and that suitable arrangements are in place for the administration of Penalty Notices
  2. Regular and punctual attendance at school or an alternative provision is both, a legal requirement and essential for children and young people to maximise their educational opportunities. Penalty Notices offer a swift intervention which North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) will use to deal with issues of unauthorised absence before they become entrenched
  3. An offence occurs if a parent/carer fails to secure a child’s attendance at school or alternative provision at which they are a registered pupil, and that absence is not authorised by the school or alternative provision
  4. In addition, a Penalty Notice can be used to help ensure parents fulfil their responsibilities to ensure their child is not out in a public place without reasonable justification during the first five days of every exclusion from school


  1. The primary responsibility for the issuing of Penalty Notices rests with the Local Authority. The Educational Inclusion & Partnership Team (EIPT) of NNC will therefore issue Penalty Notices in North Northamptonshire. This ensures consistency and will prevent conflict with other enforcement sanctions
  2. Although professionals other than those within the Local Authority (e.g., Head Teachers, the Police etc.) are accredited persons within the legislation, able to issue Penalty Notices, there is no requirement for them to do so. In North Northamptonshire it has been agreed that the Police will not issue Penalty Notices. If a Head Teacher feels it is appropriate for a Penalty Notice to be issued, they must refer to the EIPT. This will avoid a Penalty Notice being issued when the EIPT is instigating legal intervention proceedings for irregular school attendance or where a Penalty Notice is not deemed an appropriate form of intervention
  3. Penalty Notices will be issued by First Class post to satisfy evidential requirements

EIPT will act upon requests to issue Penalty Notices from schools, academies, or alternative education providers and Northamptonshire Police, provided that:

  1. all relevant information is supplied in the specified manner
  2. the circumstances of the pupil’s absence meet the requirements of this Code of Conduct
  3. the issuing of a Penalty Notice does not conflict with other interventions strategies in place or other enforcement sanctions already in process

Criteria for issuing Penalty Notices

  1. Penalty Notices are issued to parents as defined under Section 576 of the Education Act 1996 in relation to children of compulsory school age. Under the Act the term “parent” includes:
  • All natural parents, whether they are married or not
  • Any person who, although not a natural parent, has parental responsibility for a child or young person
  • Any person although not a natural parent has care of a child or young person. Having care of a child or young person means that a person with whom the child lives and who looks after a child, irrespective of what their relationship is with a child
  1. They may be issued for children at maintained schools, academies, free schools and alternative provision providers in North Northamptonshire
  2. In accordance with the definition of parent, and thereby parental responsibility for non-school attendance, more than one person may be liable for the offence. In such circumstances, separate notices will be issued to each person
  3. Penalty Notices may be issued when:
  • There has been an unacceptable level of unauthorised absence from an educational establishment and enforcement is necessary to improve attendance. Unauthorised absence is absence without permission from a head teacher or other authorised representative from the school. This includes all unexplained or unjustified absences. The categories of authorised and unauthorised absence are explained in the Guidance to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006.
  • A minimum of 10 sessions of unauthorised absence in a 6-school week period will usually have occurred. However, a shorter period may be considered appropriate in some circumstances.
  • In the case of an unauthorised holiday taken during term time, if:
    •  Parents have not sought permission from the Head Teacher before taking their child out of school for a holiday in term time
    • The Head Teacher has refused the request, but the absence occurs anyway
    • A pupil has not returned to school by the agreed date with no satisfactory explanation

And there have been 10 sessions of unauthorised absence in a 6-school week period.

Each case is considered on an individual basis.

  • A pupil is persistently late to school (i.e. arrives after the register has closed)

  • Under truancy sweeps carried out under Crime and Disorder Act 1998 powers, a minimum of 5 sessions of unauthorised absence may generate a Penalty Notice if these unauthorised absences occur in the 6 school weeks (maximum) after the child was stopped on the truancy sweep

  • When an excluded child is present in a public place during school hours on a day which is one of the first 5 school days to which the exclusion relates or, where that exclusion is for a fixed period of 5 days or less, any of the days to which the exclusion relates, under the protocol for Section 103 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006

Alternative action may need to be considered if school attendance offences re-occur, in the light of advice from Legal Services.

Withdrawal of Penalty Notices

Once issued a Penalty Notice can only be withdrawn if one of the following circumstances apply:

  • The Penalty Notice has not been issued in accordance with the Code of Conduct
  • Evidence has been established that the Penalty Notice was issued to the wrong person
  • There are material errors in the information leading to the issue of the Penalty Notice
  • The period for payment has expired and the Local Authority does not intend to institute legal proceedings for which the Penalty Notice relates

Payment of Penalty Notices

The arrangements for the paying of Penalty Notices will be detailed on the Penalty Notice. Revenue generated from the Penalty Notices will be used to cover the costs of issuing and enforcing notices, or the cost of prosecuting recipients who do not pay.

Non-Payment of Penalty Notices

The Penalty is £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt of the Penalty Notice (assumed as 2 working days following the Notice being sent by first class mail), or £120 if paid after 21 days but within 28 days of receipt of the Penalty Notice.

If the Penalty Notice is not paid in full by the end of the 28-day period, the Local Authority may prosecute for the offence to which the Notice applies.

The prosecution relates to irregular school attendance under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996. Where a prosecution is an appropriate course of action a Caution may be offered by the Local Authority as an alternative method of disposal. There is no statutory right of appeal against the issuing of a Penalty Notice. A record will be kept of all prosecutions relating to offence for which a Penalty Notice was issued.


  1. Section 23 Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 empowers authorised officers of a Local Authority, Head Teachers (and Deputy and Assistant Head Teachers authorised by the Head) and Police Officers (including Community Support Officers) to issue a Penalty Notice in cases of unauthorised absence from school, or alternative provision
  2. The Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2004 came into force on 27th February 2004
  3. The Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2004 require the Local Authority, in consultation with the above, to develop a code of conduct for issuing of Penalty Notices. Any person issuing a Penalty Notice must do so within the terms of this code of conduct
  4. The Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2005 extends the issuing of Penalty Notices to alternative provision
  5. The Education (Penalty Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 confirms the increase in the amount of penalty where the offence is alleged to have been wholly or partly committed after 1st September 2012
  6. Education (Penalty Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 confirm that the penalty of £60 must be paid within 21 days or after that period increase to £120 to be paid within 28 days
  7. The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 remove all reference to family holiday and extended leave as well as the statutory threshold of 10 school days. Amendments make clear that Head Teachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. Head Teachers should determine the number of school days a child can be away from school if the leave is granted
  8. The education provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 apply to all parents who fall within the definition of parent as set out in Section 576 of the Education Act 1996
  9. Penalty Notices supplement existing sanctions currently available under Section 444 Education Act 1996 or Section 36 Children Act 1989 to enforce attendance at school or alternative provision
  10. Education and Inspections Act 2006; giving authorisation to Penalty Notices when a child has been excluded
  11. This Code of Conduct complies with the requirements set out in Sections 14-16 of the Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2007
  12. The issuing of Penalty Notices must conform to all requirements of the Human Rights

Request intervention from an Educational Inclusion Officer

If you have explored the options above, but are continuing to have issues with the child’s attendance, you may be able to get support from a Educational Inclusion Officer.

We investigate cases of irregular attendance, provide advice to resolve problems and if necessary carry out legal enforcement measures.

You can request support using the online form below. The referral may not be accepted if you have not explored the reasons for the child’s attendance issues and looked at support.

Last updated 19 July 2023