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.
The issuing of a Penalty Notice is considered appropriate if / when:
- the pupil has been taken on holiday during term-time and the absence has not been authorised by the school
- a School Attendance Officer is in the early stages of casework with the pupil, but the parent consistently fails to provide an explanation for the pupil's absence and/or fails to engage
- the pupil has accrued unauthorised absences from school in circumstances which appear to have been avoidable (particularly when the parent fails to effectively engage with the school's attempts to address the situation)
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.