Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Win on attendance

A much-reported recent case has clarified the situation on school attendance and made schools' decisions final.

A parent has a duty to make a child attend school unless the child is being 'educated otherwise than at school'. That means attendance throughout each and every term except for a good cause, for instance a child's illness (but not a parent's illness).

A parent who wants to take a child out of school during normal term time may ask permission from the school for the child to have leave of absence. The school may grant this, or not. If the school refuses, parents have no right of appeal.

If a child is taken out of school without permission, parents have broken the law and the school or local authority may impose a fixed penalty notice of £50 or £100.

Where parents persistently fail to comply, the local authority may prosecute. On conviction, an educational supervision order may be imposed, or a parent may be subject to a community sentence, a fine not exceeding £2,500, or a jail sentence not exceeding three months.

A parent may also be invited to make a parenting contract with the school or a parenting order may be sought.

Practice varies among local authorities. The easiest source of guidance to the whole field is the DfES Guidance on Education Related Parenting Contracts, Parenting Orders and Penalty Notices (on the DfES website) which includes a guide to the law.

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