Tackling unauthorised absence: fining parents

Your school is legally entitled to fine parents if their child has poor attendance. Find out when you can issue a penalty notice, and whether you can challenge your local authority's decisions on penalty notices and prosecutions.

Last reviewed on 17 June 2024See updates
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  1. Schools can issue penalty notices
  2. Guidance on issuing a penalty notice
  3. Only LAs can prosecute parents
  4. Can schools challenge an LA's decision?

Note: references to 'parents' throughout this article should be taken to mean 'parents/carers'. 

Schools can issue penalty notices

Penalty notices are an alternative to prosecuting parents for failing to make sure their child attends school.

Penalty notices are fines that can be issued by:

  • A headteacher
  • A deputy or assistant head (authorised by the headteacher)
  • A local authority (LA) officer
  • The police

They can be used when:

  • A pupil’s absence hasn't been authorised by the school or
  • Parents allow their child to be present in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification during the first 5 days of a suspension or permanent exclusion

How much is a penalty notice?

The penalty is:

  • £80 if paid within 21 days of receipt
  • £160 if paid after 21 days, but within 28 days 

All of the above is explained in the statutory guidance on working together to improve school attendance (under the section

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