Code of conduct for issuing penalty notices for unauthorised absence from school

Last updated: 24 November 2022

The legal basis

Regular and punctual attendance of pupils at school is a legal requirement under section 7 of the Education Act 1996. Section 444 of the Education Act 1996, creates criminal offences, if the parents fail to ensure that their child attends school regularly. Therefore, parents are responsible for ensuring that their child of compulsory school age receives sufficient full-time education that is suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have.

For the purpose of this legislation and code of conduct a under section 576 Education Act 1996 any person who has care of a child – whether or not they are the parent – or who has parental responsibility, is deemed to be 'a parent' and is therefore responsible for ensuring regular school attendance.

For the purpose of the legislation and Buckinghamshire council’s code of conduct, compulsory school age is defined as: -

  • commencing at the start of term on or after a child’s fifth birthday and concluding on the last Friday in June of the academic year in which they turn 16.

Under sections 444A and 444B of the Education Act 1996, a penalty notice can be issued, as an alternative to immediate prosecution, in cases of unauthorised absences from school.

A penalty notice is a notice offering the person the opportunity of discharging any liability to conviction of the offence. The responsibility for authorising absence rests with the school’s head teacher. The procedural guidance for the implementation of those subsections is contained within The Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2007 (No 1867).

In respect of an excluded pupil, The Education and Inspections Act 2006, Section 103 places a duty on parents in relation to an excluded pupil, to ensure that their child is not present in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification during the first five days of each and every fixed term and permanent exclusion.

These days are known as the “specified days of exclusion”. Section 104 of the Act requires schools to notify parents in writing that they are responsible for the child during these days. Section 105 of the act, allows for a penalty notice to be issued to a parent guilty of an offence under section 103.