What the Law Says
Parents/carers 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/carers 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.
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.
The penalty for non-attendance at school is £120 to be paid within 28 days, which is reduced to £60 if paid within 21 days of the notice being served. The fines are charged per parent per child. Parents/carers may discharge their potential liability for an 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.
Schools or the Local Authority may prosecute a parent/carer without the use of a penalty notice fine first and this could result in a more serious penalty.
The offence under Section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996 carries a maximum fine of £1,000 and the council will also seek to recover costs. The more serious offence under Section 444 (1A) has a range of sentencing options for the court to impose on each responsible parent/carer, including:
- a fine of up to £2,500;
- a community based sentence;
- three months imprisonment;
- subject to a Parenting Order - this can be additional to other sentences;
- costs may be awarded to the council.
If you would like to discuss any of the statutory action further, please do not hesitate to contact our Attendance Office, Becky Small, via our Contact Us page or alternatively you can send our Attendance Officer an email at email@example.com