School attendance - pay an education penalty notice

The law gives powers to the local authority and other designated bodies to issue penalty notices where a parent/carer is considered to have failed in their legal duty to ensure their child's regular attendance at school. Reducing absences from school is a key priority nationally and locally because missing school damages a pupil's attainment levels and disrupts school routines and the learning of others.

Pay an education penalty notice

You have up to 28 days from receipt of the notice to pay the penalty. Fines should be paid in full. It is not an option to pay in part or by instalments. No reminders will be sent.

Penalty notices are issued at £120 however, if paid within 21 days of being issued the cost is £60.

You will need your penalty notice as you will be asked for the penalty notice number.

You can pay online using MasterCard, Maestro, Visa, Electron and Solo.

Pay your penalty notice online

If you prefer to pay by post you can complete the slip at the bottom of the notice and send it with a cheque or postal order to the address given. On receipt of the payment the court officer will write to you to confirm that your payment has been received. Please note you can pay for multiple penalty notices with one cheque or postal order, as long as all the slips are included.

If you have mislaid your penalty notice you can write your name and the pupil(s) name(s) on the back of the cheque or postal order. Alternatively you can contact the issuing officer on 01772 534950 who can provide the penalty notice number(s) needed to pay online.

If we cannot identify who has paid and which pupil(s) the payment relates to, the offence will not be discharged and you will be taken to court.

Penalty notices

Parents/carers commit an offence if a child fails to attend school regularly and the absences are classed as unauthorised. Depending on the circumstances, such cases may result in prosecution under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

A penalty notice is an alternative to prosecution. Where parents/carers pay the fine they can avoid being prosecuted and receiving a criminal conviction.

Penalty notices will always be issued by 1st class post to your home and are issued to each parent/carer individually in respect of each child.

This means a number of people may be liable for a penalty notice. For example, your partner may also be served a penalty notice and both must be paid to avoid prosecution.

The expression "parent", in relation to a child or young person, includes any person who is not a parent of the child but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of the child (lives with and has day to day contact with the child). If you are the auntie, uncle, grandma, granddad or family friend of the child, you may have received a penalty notice because you have been determined as a parent under the Education Act.

Criteria for penalty notices

Penalty notices may be used in the following circumstances:

  • unauthorised absence (including parentally condoned absence)
  • truancy
  • persistent late* arrival at school
  • unauthorised leave in term time
  • delayed return from authorised leave

Before a penalty notice is considered, a pupil must have had a minimum of:

  • 5 school days/10 sessions unauthorised absence in a term or
  • 7 school days/14 sessions unauthorised absence over 2 consecutive terms

These criteria are set out in the code of conduct (PDF 185 KB).

* persistent lateness refers to pupils who arrive after the school register has closed


In cases of unauthorised absence and persistent lateness, you will receive a written warning of the possibility of a notice being issued. This will include a copy of your child's attendance details. The warning letter will advise you of a 15 school day monitoring period during which your child should have no unauthorised absences from school, otherwise a penalty notice will be issued.

In cases of unauthorised leave, warnings will be issued where sufficient notice of the intended absence has been given. This means that in some cases, penalty notices may be issued without a warning.

Appeals and representations

There is no statutory right of appeal for a penalty notice.

It is at the discretion of the headteacher as to whether or not an absence is deemed exceptional and recorded as authorised in accordance with the Department for Education Guidance on applying the Education Pupil Registration Regulations. Any questions about the school's refusal to authorise leave or the school's decision to request a penalty notice should be raised with the headteacher informally or with the governing body through the school's complaints procedure.

The Local Authority School Attendance Legal Team cannot answer questions regarding the schools decision making processes – any such enquiries will be directed back to the school.

Once issued the penalty notice deadlines cannot be put on hold or extended. Whilst you pursue the matter you are still required to pay the penalty notices within the specified timescales to avoid being taken to court. If the decision is overturned, a refund can be issued.
If you believe that the fine contains material errors, you must not ignore it as you will still be liable. You should contact the issuing officer (the court officer) as soon as possible, who will be able to investigate the matter and advise as to whether or not it will be withdrawn and/or reissued, and if you will still need to pay to avoid prosecution.

Consequences of non-payment

You have up to 28 days from receipt of the notice to pay the penalty in full, after which the authority is required in most instances to commence proceedings in the local magistrates' court for the original offence of failing to ensure your child attends school regularly.

In the event of non-payment of a penalty notice, further correspondence regarding court proceedings will be issued. In some instances, attendance at court may not be necessary; the court paperwork you receive will explain the procedures and what to do next.

If you are convicted, this can attract a range of sentences including fines up to £2,500 and/or up to three months imprisonment.  Other disposals such as Parenting Orders or Community Sentences can be imposed depending upon the circumstances.  Costs may also be imposed.  

Payment of the notice discharges your potential liability for conviction for that period.  However, it could be the case that a prosecution might be considered for further periods of poor attendance not covered by the notice, depending on the circumstances. 

Advice and support

If you have concerns regarding your child's attendance you should contact the school to discuss what help might be available.