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School attendance

Why is regular school attendance so important?

Attending school regularly allows every child to have the best opportunities to reach their full potential. Regular school attendance cannot be underestimated. The impact of just a small number of days’ absence has a significant negative effect on a child’s life chances.

There is a strong link between good attendance and achieving good results for children. Those children who frequently miss school regularly are more likely to fall behind in their work and this may affect their future prospects. 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. In Achieving for Children we work closely with our schools and families to support them to achieve the best possible outcomes for children attending our schools in Kingston and Richmond.

What does the law say?

By law, all children of compulsory school age (between 5 and 16) must receive a suitable full time education. As a parent, you are responsible for making sure this happens. This will be by registering your child at a school.  You might make other arrangements, known as "Elective Home Education", that must provide a suitable full time education appropriate to meet their needs, abilities and aptitude.

Once you decide as a parent to register your child at a school you are responsible for making sure they attend regularly. If your child fails to attend regularly – even if they miss school without you knowing – the Local Authority (LA) may take legal action against you.

Penalty notices

What is a penalty notice?  

A penalty notice is a fine that the school may decide to issue instead of taking legal action through the Magistrates’ Court system. 

Why could a penalty notice be issued? 

Under the terms of the education related provisions of the Anti -Social Behaviour Act, a penalty notice can now be issued for each parent and carer and for each child of compulsory school age, if:  

  • they fail to ensure that their child attends school, or other education provision regularly  
  • they allow their child to take leave of absence without the school authorisation 
  • they fail to return their child to school on an agreed date after a period of leave of absence  
  • their child persistently arrives late for school after the register is closed 
  • their child is found out of school, without permission, on two truancy sweeps, within the same year 

How is a penalty notice for attendance issued?

In the case of non-school attendance or lateness after the register has been closed, a warning letter would be sent to you explaining that a penalty notice may be issued. You will then have 15 school days to improve your child’s attendance and/or punctuality at school. 

What happens if there is no improvement in attendance or punctuality?

A penalty fine will be issued to you by post. On issue, the initial penalty fine is £60.  If this is not paid with 21 days, the fine is doubled to £120.  This is for each parent or carer who has parental responsibility for each child and who they have day-to day care of and live with on school days.  

If this is not then paid by the 28th day after the issue of the original notice,  legal proceedings under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 can be taken. This is not for non-payment of the fine, but for an offence of failing to ensure a child accesses appropriate full-time education. 

What happens if there is an improvement in attendance or punctuality? 

If there is a significant and sustained improvement in attendance or punctuality over 15 days after the penalty notice warning has been given, the penalty notice will not be issued.  

If this happens, you will be sent a letter explaining that no further action will be taken at this stage.  But if attendance falls again, another penalty notice warning may be issued. 

How is a penalty notice for leave of absence issued? 

A penalty notice will be issued following unauthorised leave of absence. The reasons for the issuing of the penalty notice will be given, together with the issuing of the actual fine.  

How many warnings can you be issued with? 

There is no limit to the number of warnings you can be given.

Can I make an appeal against the penalty notice?  

No. A penalty notice can only be withdrawn if it ought not to have been issued in the first place, or where it has been issued to the wrong person. (If you feel that this is the case, you must contact the school immediately). 

There is no statutory right of appeal against the issuing of a penalty fine.  Penalty notices are issued within the terms of a local code of conduct. 

Where can I find help? 

Penalty notice leaflet for parents and carers (PDF)

Contact your school if you wish to discuss fixed penalty notices. 

or you can contact the Achieving for Children Education Welfare Service

What can you do to help?

The LA is responsible for making sure that parents fulfil their responsibilities. Parents are responsible for making sure that their registered children regularly attends school or any alternative provision arranged for them. That means your child between the ages of 5 and 16, is expected to attend school regularly, that is every day the school is open, unless they are unable to. This may be due to exceptional circumstances or unavoidable reasons, such as illness.

As a parent, if you suspect that your child may be missing school or you are concerned, do contact the school as soon as possible. This is so that you can work with them to resolve any difficulties. Be on alert for any particular reasons for non-attendance, such as problems with school work, friendship groups and discuss these with the school. If your child is ill or absent for any other reasons, contact the school on the first day of absence. Follow the schools’ attendance procedures for notifying absence, and always let the school know of any days that your child is unable to attend. Make sure your child arrives at school on time.

Parental support is critical in ensuring that children achieve in education and support and guidance is always available at your child's school.

Missing days off school

It is a legal requirement for parents to ensure children attend school regularly and arrive on time.

  • Attending school every day = 100% attendance
  • Attending 4½ days a week = 90% attendance = 4 weeks missed per year (classified as persistent absentee-unacceptable-A pupil will find it difficult to catch up on missed learning and will be unlikely to achieve their best)
  • Attending 4 days a week = 80% attendance = more than half a term missed per year.
  • Attending 3½ days each week = 70% attendance = more than a quarter of the school year missed.
  • An average attendance of 80% or less across a child’s school career adds up to missing a whole 2 years from school.
  • A pupil missing 50% or less across a school year = 95 days in school missing half of their education. These pupils are classified as severely absent and will lead to involvement from the Local Authority.
  • Being late for school reduces learning time. If your child is 5 minutes late every day they will miss three days of learning each year. If your child is 15 minutes late every day they will miss 2 weeks of learning each year.

Make every minute count.

The Department for Education has provided information for parents to help you understand your responsibilities for school attendance - Working together to improve school attendance (PDF) 

The NHS provides guidance on understanding whether your child is too ill for school