Parents are legally responsible for ensuring that their child attends school regularly, and the officer will usually give the parents up to 12 weeks to improve their child’s attendance. If this is not achieved, the School Attendance Officer will issue the parents with a summons to appear in court. If the parents are convicted in court, they may be fined up to £1,000.
In some circumstances, if the parents have knowingly allowed their child to be absent from school they may be fined up to £2,500 or even sent to prison for 3 months.
A Penalty Notice may be issued when:
- a pupil is taken out of school during term time for a holiday which has not been authorised by the school
- a child’s school attendance has been poor and the school believe that the issuing of a Penalty Notice may lead to an improvement in the child’s attendance
When a Penalty Notice is issued, it is issued on a per child / per parent basis. This means that if a mother and father have two children and take both children out of school, they may be issued with a total of 4 Penalty Notices – one to each parent for each child.
When a school requests the local authority to issue a Penalty Notice, the following criterion will apply:
- when the number of unauthorised absences amounts to at least 10 sessions (5 days) during the previous 12 school weeks
Once a Penalty Notice has been issued, there is no statutory right of appeal, although there are circumstances in which the council may withdraw the Notice.