Parents have a legal responsibility to make sure their children get a suitable education (as set out in the Education Act 1996). For the majority, this means making sure your child is registered at a school and that they attend regularly during term time. If your child fails to attend school regularly you are committing an offence and could be fined or prosecuted.
Authorised and unauthorised absence from school
Parents do not have a legal right to take their children out of school. It is always the head teacher's decision whether or not to allow you to take your child out of school during term time. If you do not ask their permission in advance, or they do not give it and you take your child out of school anyway, this will be recorded as an unauthorised absence.
Head teachers may authorise an absence from school during term time if there are exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances may include
- the death or terminal illness of a person in the immediate family.
- service personnel and other employees who cannot take leave outside term time at any point in the academic year.
You must make any requests for leave of absence in advance and you must be the parent the child normally lives with.
Leave of absence in term time (holidays)
Previously, Headteachers were able to authorise up to 10 days of leave from school. From 1 September 2013, new government rules mean that head teachers no longer have this discretion.
The new law says that requests for leave may only be granted if there is an exceptional circumstance. Family holidays do not fall into this category. It is important to give the Headteacher as much information as possible when applying for leave of absence. All applications for Leave of Absence should be made in advance.
A penalty notice is an alternative to you being taken to court by the council. If your child has 10 or more sessions of unauthorised absence, the school will inform our Education Welfare Service who will issue a penalty notice for each child to each parent. Anyone who has day to day care of a child is considered a ‘parent’ and legally responsible for making sure the child attends school.
What is the cost?
The penalty is £120 per child per parent it paid within 28 days, the is reduced to £60 per child per parent if paid within the first 21 days.
If you do not pay the fine within 28 days the local authority has no option but to prosecute you in the Magistrates’ Court. This could lead to a fine of up to £1000 per parent per child.
For more about the detailed regulations, procedures and legislation governing penalty notices, please read our Penalty Notice Code of Conduct Penalty Notice Code of Conduct 37kb.
Enquiries and advice
If you are concerned about your child’s attendance you should first talk to your child’s school. Alternatively you can contact the Penalty Notice Officer on 01722 438123 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated: 11 March 2016