Fixed penalty notices

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Parental responsibilities

As a parent you have a legal responsibility to make sure your child gets a full-time education.  Schools are required by law to keep attendance registers.  Absences must either be marked as: authorised (only the school can authorise the absence) or unauthorised (where no acceptable reason is given).

 You can find out more information around school attendance and absence on the GOV.UK website.

Penalty Notices

A penalty notice is a fine issued by South Gloucestershire Council to parents/carers of a child who has failed to attend school regularly and whose absence is unauthorised.  It does not require the parent to attend court but is an alternative to prosecution in the magistrate’s court. Parents/carers who pay the fine in full within the time limits cannot later be prosecuted for the offence to which the penalty notice relates.

Penalty notices have been introduced because reducing absence from school is a key priority of the government and local authority.  Missing school may limit a pupil’s attainment, disrupt school routines and the learning of others, and can leave a pupil vulnerable to anti-social behaviour and youth crime.

When a Penalty Notice might be issued

A penalty notice may be issued to a parent in one or more of the following circumstances where more than 10 sessions* of absence are recorded in 7 school weeks (i.e. 70 sessions):

  • For holidays taken in term time (G code);
  • For lateness after the register has closed (U code) after a penalty notice warning letter has been issued;
  • For afternoon absences e.g. where pupils have left the school site and not returned for afternoon registration, as part of the legal attendance process (i.e. following an Attendance Panel Review or paper review) after a penalty notice warning letter has been issued;
  • During Year 11 after a penalty notice warning letter has been issued;
  • Occasional absences not authorised by the school, as part of the legal attendance process (i.e. following an Attendance Panel Review or paper review) after a penalty notice warning letter has been issued.

*There are 2 sessions per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

What you can do to avoid receiving a Penalty Notice

  • ensure your child attends school every day and on time
  • make sure your child understands that they cannot have odd days off school - 'Every Lesson Counts'
  • speak to the class teacher or tutor if your child is beginning to miss odd days
  • do not take family holidays in term time.

The cost of a Penalty Notice

Penalty notices issued for reasons of poor attendance as outlined above are £60 (per parent, per child) if paid within 21 days of receipt of the notice; rising to £120 if paid after 21 days but within 28 days.  For example a two - parent family taking 2 children out of school for an unauthorised holiday would be liable for a total of £240 if paid within 21 days or £480 between 21 and 28 days.  Penalty notices are issued to the parent(s) who have ‘day to day care’ of the child and may include a step-parent or a parent’s partner. 

The payment must be made in full, part payments will not be accepted.  Details of how to pay are printed on the penalty notice.

Is there an appeals process?

There is no right of appeal against the penalty notice.  If you believe it was incorrectly issued to you, you should contact the Senior Education Officer immediately (contact details below).  If you believe that you are not guilty of the offence and therefore decide not to pay the notice, you have the right to represent your case at the Magistrates Court.  You should seek legal advice before making this decision.

What happens if you do not pay

If you have not paid the penalty notice in full before the 28 days allowed, the authority is required to commence legal proceedings in the Magistrates Court for the original offence of failure to ensure regular attendance at school.  If proven, this could result in a fine of up to £1000 under Section 444 (1) or up to £2500 and/or three months imprisonment under Section 444 (1A), a Parenting Order or other sanctions at the Magistrates' disposal. You are strongly urged to seek legal advice if you are considering not paying the penalty notice. Further information regarding legal action to enforce school attendance can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Further information and advice

The council have produced a parents and carers guide to Penalty Notices.

See also The Department for Education guidance -Working together to improve school attendance

The following organisations can also provide advice:

South Gloucestershire Council contact details:

Claire Dunwell - Senior Education Officer
Tel: 01454 866441
South Gloucestershire Council
Department for People
PO Box 1955
South Gloucestershire
BS37 0DE