Skip to main content

School attendance, absence and penalty notices

All children of school age must receive a suitable full time education. The child’s parent is responsible for ensuring the child receives a suitable education.

School attendance

There may be times when your child doesn't attend school. This will fall into two categories; authorised absence, or unauthorised absence.

Authorised absence

  • Illness
  • Medical appointments (routine medical/dental check-ups should be made out of school hours whenever possible), if the medical appointment occurs in the morning or afternoon, your child is expected to attend school before or after the appointment (you'll need to provide evidence of the appointment)
  • Transport that wasn't provided by us when it should have been
  • Unavoidable cause (this means an unusual/extraordinary event that couldn’t be avoided
  • A specified, limited period for an immediate family member's bereavement, crisis or serious illness
  • A funeral of an immediate family member

For the following, you will need to complete an absence request form to get authorisation for the absence at least 10 school days before the event: 

  • Religious observance
  • A specified, limited period for children of service personnel about to go on deployment (you'll need to provide a letter from the Commanding Officer as evidence)
  • One day for a wedding of an immediate family member (you'll need to provide the invitation as evidence)
  • One day for an immediate family members graduation ceremony/passing out parade (you'll need to provide the invitation as evidence)
  • A one off sporting events/performing arts competitions if your child is participating and is at county standard or above (you'll need to provide a letter from the performing arts/sports regional governing body as evidence)

Examples of unauthorised absence

  • Caring for other family members
  • Birthdays
  • To interpret for family members
  • Having no school uniform/shoes
  • Bullying
  • Friendship problems
  • Head lice
  • Learning difficulties
  • Family holiday
  • Weddings abroad (even if it's immediate family)
  • Family anniversaries
  • Death of a pet
  • Travel problems
  • Attending immigration interviews with parents or guardian
  • Moving house
  • School refusal
  • Lateness after the school's registration period

This list provides examples and isn't exhaustive.

Absence Request Form

If your child is ill

You need to contact the school on the first day of absence and let them know of any days that your child will be unable to attend. The school will decide if the absence is authorised or not.

Arriving late

Getting your child to school on time is important. Arriving late at school can disrupt your child, the teacher and other children. Check the start time of your child's school. Arriving late may count as an authorised absence

If your child misses school

If your child does not attend school regularly and the absence is unauthorised you may be issued with a penalty notice or become subject to a criminal prosecution.

If you think your child may be missing school, is unhappy at school or if you have any concerns, you should contact the school as soon as possible.

Penalty notices

You always need permission from the headteacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time. You do this by completing an absence request form and giving it to the school in plenty of time. If you don’t the absence will be unauthorised.

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

We can prosecute or issue penalty notices for absence from school if:

  • your child has 8 or more unauthorised absences from school over a 6 month period (8 absences are equal to 4 school days as there are 2 sessions in a school day)
  • your child has been late to school after registration has closed 8 or more times over a 6 month period
  • your child is found during a truancy sweep and the absence hasn't been authorised by the school, and there are already 8 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 5 days of a fixed term or permanent exclusion
  • You take your child out of school to go on a family holiday for more than a week and you have not had permission from the school. You will not receive a warning letter as schools make it clear to parents that holidays will only be agreed in exceptional circumstances (you should know that holidays being cheaper in term time is not an exceptional circumstance)

A fixed penalty notice of £60 is issued to each parent or carer for each child.

When you pay Amount to pay
​Payment within 21 days ​£60
​Payment within 22 days and 28 days ​£120

How to pay

If we issue a penalty notice, we will send a letter that tells you how to pay.

You will have to pay the full amount on the penalty notice, you cannot pay in instalments. It is important to pay the penalty notice because you will be prosecuted if you don’t.

Any further unauthorised absences will be treated as separate offences.

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). You need to state why you believe the notice has been incorrectly issued. We do not offer payment extensions whilst we consider your reasons

You can send your statement to us by email or post.

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.

Inclusion, Attendance and Welfare Service (IAWS)

If you have concerns about your child’s attendance, you should first contact your child’s school to ask for support. If you feel you still need advice, you can contact the IAWS. The IAWS ensures that all statutory school aged children are accounted for, receiving and attending suitable, full time education.

Contact details