Absence from School

The importance of regular school attendance

The school wants all children to have the best possible attendance at school to enable each and every child to reach their full potential. 

There is a strong link between good school attendance and achieving good results for children. Children who frequently miss school may fall behind in their work which may affect their future prospects.

Good school attendance also shows future employers that a young person is reliable, more likely to achieve well and play a positive role in their community.

Young people who are frequently absent from school are more likely to become
involved in, or be a victim of crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as suffer from low
self esteem and lead to further problems as they get older.


Your responsibilities as a parent

Parents and carers have a duty to ensure their child has a suitable education either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

Parental support is critical in ensuring that children achieve in education and support
and guidance is always available within school.


What the Law Says

Parents have a legal responsibility for ensuring that children of compulsory school age receive a full-time education ‘suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special education needs that they may have either by regular attendance at school or
otherwise’. Section 7 Education Act 1996.

Parents whose children are on a school register and fail to ensure the regular school attendance of their children, may be guilty of an offence under Section 444 or 444 (1A)
of the Education Act 1996. The council may issue a Penalty Notice or take other
statutory action through the courts to secure regular school attendance.


Legal Interventions

Penalty Notice

A penalty notice is used as an early intervention and is an alternative to prosecution
under Section 444 of the Education Act for irregular school attendance which is not authorised by the school.

The school may request a penalty notice and one will be issued by the council if the request meets the criteria in the Code of Conduct. There is no right of appeal against
the issuing of a penalty notice.

Parents may discharge their potential liability for this absence period by paying the penalty notice. Failure to pay the penalty notice may result in prosecution in the magistrate’s court under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.


The offence under Section 444 (1) of the Education Act 1996 carries a maximum fine
of £1000 and the council will also seek to recover costs.

The more serious offence under Section 444 (1) (a) has a range of sentencing options
for the court to impose on each responsible parent, including:

  • Fine of up to £2,500
  • Community based sentence
  • Three months imprisonment
  • Subject  to a Parenting Order – can be additional to other sentences
  • Costs may be awarded to the council


Types of absence

Unauthorised absence – this is when children are absent from school without the authority of the head teacher. Below is a list of some of the reasons where absence
from school may not be authorised;

  • Birthday treat
  • Day trip
  • Shopping or visit to hairdresser
  • Over-sleeping
  • Taking a long week-end
  • Taking the rest of the day off, before or after a dental or medical appointment
  • Family celebration

Authorised absence – There are very few reasons why absence may be authorised and
in all cases you must inform your child’s school and explain the reasons why your child is absent.

If you need to take your child out of school during term time for exceptional circumstances, then you must contact your child’s school who will inform you of the procedure.

Only the head teacher can authorise absence and may request further evidence to support this.

Tips for good school attendance


  • Good habits start early in life, so establish good routines, such as reading before bedtime and going to bed on time

  • If your child is off school, you must let the school know why and tell them when they can expect your child back

  • Make all appointments for the doctor, dentist, optician etc after school hours or during the school holidays where possible

  • Take an active interest in your child’s school work and offer support with homework

  • Attend parent’s evenings to discuss your child’s progress

  • Make sure your child understands the benefits of regular attendance at school

  • Don’t let your child stay off school for a minor ailment

  • Take all holidays during the school holiday periods