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Penalty notices for absence from school

If you fail to make sure your child attends school regularly (even if they're missing school without your knowledge), you may be issued with a penalty notice (a fine for children who miss school without authorisation) or subject to a criminal prosecution.

A penalty notice of £60 may be issued as an alternative to prosecution. This rises to £120 if you don't pay within 21 days. Failure to pay within 28 days will normally lead to prosecution.

We can issue penalty notice if:

  • your child has eight or more unauthorised absences from school over a six month period (eight absences are equal to four school days as there are two sessions in a school day)
  • your child has been late to school after registration has closed eight or more times over a six month period
  • your child is found during a truancy sweep and the absence hasn't been authorised by the school, and there are already eight previous unauthorised absences
  • you repeatedly fail to provide the school or our Inclusion, Attendance and Welfare Service reasons for your child's absences (this includes ignoring our attempts to contact you)
  • your child is found in a public place during the first five days of a fixed term or permanent exclusion

Headteachers don't have to authorise absence during term unless there are exceptional circumstances. If leave is authorised, headteachers will determine the number of school days a child can be away from school and you'll need to provide evidence that the circumstances are exceptional.

You'll receive warning about your child's unauthorised absences in writing and get a chance to talk to us about this. If your child has one more unauthorised absence within 15 days of you receiving this letter, we can issue a penalty notice.

How to pay

Payments must be made in full by the dates given on the notice (you can't pay in instalments). Make sure you know these dates as your fine will be doubled if it isn't paid by the 21 day deadline.

If you don't pay your penalty notice, you'll be prosecuted for failing to ensure your child's regular attendance at school (not for non-payment of the fine), meaning if you're found guilty, you could receive a more serious penalty and a criminal record.

You can't be prosecuted until after the notice payment deadline has passed (28 days). If you pay the penalty within 28 days, no other legal action can be taken against you for that offence.

Any further unauthorised absences will be treated as separate offences and can result in legal action.

How to appeal

You can't appeal against a penalty notice, but it can be withdrawn for the following reasons:

  • it shouldn't have been issued (it's been issued outside our code of conduct or no offence has been committed)
  • it's been issued to the wrong person
  • it was materially defective 

If you believe your notice was wrongly issued, you need to contact us, in writing (within 14 days of receiving the notice), stating why you believe the notice has been incorrectly issued. We can't offer a payment extension whilst we consider your statement.

Send your representations to Penalty Notice Officer, Inclusion, Attendance and Welfare Service, Ground Floor, Windsor House, Plymouth PL6 5UF or email

If a penalty notice is withdrawn, you'll receive a notice of the withdrawal and any amount you've paid will be refunded. Proceedings won't continue for the offence for which the withdrawn notice was issued.