School Penalty Fines: What Does the Law Say?

school attendance penalty fines


In the United Kingdom, regular school attendance is a legal requirement and crucial for a child’s educational development. Penalties for non-attendance are imposed to maintain high education standards and ensure consistent attendance. These penalties, issued by local councils or schools, aim to encourage parents and guardians to prioritise their children’s education. Understanding the consequences of missing school and the associated legal procedures is essential for families navigating this system.

This comprehensive guide will delve into the various penalties that can be imposed for non-attendance, ranging from school attendance orders and parenting orders to penalty notice fines and potential prosecution. We will explore the different stages of enforcement and provide insights into possible defences against fines. 

We emphasise the importance of seeking legal advice when faced with school penalty fines. Our team is here to assist you in understanding your rights, evaluating your options, and ensuring you have the necessary support throughout this process.

Join us as we delve into the intricacies of school penalty fines in the UK, empowering you to make informed decisions and safeguard your child’s educational journey.


Penalties for non-attendance are strict in the United Kingdom and can even result in prosecution. These penalties are typically issued by the local council or school authorities to ensure that children receive a consistent and appropriate education. While enforcement may vary slightly from one council to another, the penalties for missing school generally include the following measures:


If the local council believes that a child who should be attending school is not doing so, they can issue a school attendance order. Upon receiving the order, parents or guardians have 15 days to provide evidence that the child is enrolled in a school or receiving proper home education. It’s important to note that a school attendance order may also be issued if a child is homeschooled but the council deems that the child’s learning is inadequate.


Instead of or alongside prosecution, the local council can issue a parenting order. If you receive a parenting order, you will be required to attend parenting classes. Additionally, the council will provide a list of steps that must be taken to improve your child’s attendance. Failure to comply with the requirements set forth in the order may result in further penalties.



In cases where the local council determines that a child should be attending school and the parent or guardian is not cooperating, an education supervision order may be issued. This type of penalty involves the assignment of a court-appointed supervisor who will assist and guide the parent or guardian in taking the necessary steps to ensure the child’s education.


Fines in the form of penalty notices can be issued by the council if a child is consistently absent from school. Each parent or guardian and each non-attending child within a family may receive a penalty notice carrying a fine of £60. In a family of four, for instance, where both children are found to be non-attending, the total fines could amount to £240 (£60 per parent and per child).

It’s worth noting that if the penalty notice fines are not paid within 21 days, the fine amount doubles to £120 per notice. Failure to pay within 28 days may lead to prosecution by the council. If a court convicts a parent or guardian of failing to ensure their child’s regular attendance at school, as well as not paying the penalty notice or adhering to an education order, the consequences can be more severe. 

In such cases, the court may impose a fine of up to £2,500, a community order, and even a jail sentence of up to three months. Additionally, a parenting notice similar to the aforementioned parenting order may also be issued. It’s crucial to remember that the council can decide the order in which these penalties are issued, or they may choose not to issue them at all. If they believe that a child is deliberately being kept out of school without a valid excuse, they may bypass the previous penalties and proceed directly to issuing penalty notices.


It’s important to understand that the authority to issue fines lies with the head teachers rather than the Secretary of State for Education. If you believe that a fine has been unfairly issued, you have the option to challenge it, and you are not obligated to pay it immediately.

However, if you choose not to pay the fine, the local authority will become involved in the process. They will assess the situation and decide whether to withdraw the fine or pursue further action, such as prosecution. In such cases, the court will evaluate whether you had a reasonable justification for keeping your child away from school.

To satisfy the magistrates that you have a reasonable excuse, the local authority would need to provide evidence that supports their claim. For detailed guidance on defending against penalty fines and understanding your rights, seeking legal advice is advisable. An experienced solicitor can assess your situation, provide appropriate guidance, and represent your interests in any legal proceedings that may arise.

For further information on school attendance and absence, the official government page provides comprehensive information, including guidance for parents and carers, legal responsibilities, and the consequences of non-attendance. School Attendance and Absence – GOV.UK


We all aim to ensure our children receive a quality education in a safe environment. If you are facing a penalty notice or any other legal issue related to school attendance, it is crucial to seek professional advice before taking any action or making payments. By consulting with a solicitor experienced in education law, you can understand your rights, legal options, and potential defences.

Our specialist team can provide a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and ensure you have the proper guidance and representation throughout this process.

Regan Peggs
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