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School Attendance, Absence & Truancy

It is a parent’s duty to ensure that from the ages of 5-16 years old, their children are in full-time education and attend school regularly. 

If the law suspects that a child is not attending school on a regular basis then they have powers to remedy the situation.

There are only two valid reasons why a child can miss school, namely that they are too ill to attend or the absence has been prearranged.

Parents must make sure that they register their child at a school, and they must then make sure that they attend on a regular basis. If the local authority believes that a child is not getting a full time education then they will step in. If a child is missing school regularly then a parent may be visited by a member of the Education Welfare Service, who will discuss why the child is missing school.

School Attendance Orders

If a local authority believes that a child is not registered at a school altogether (and they are not receiving any education at home either) then they may issue a School Attendance Order (SAO). The authorities will first discuss the problem with the parent(s), and if no agreement can be made then they will place the order. After the order has been served parents will have 15 days to put in place the actions that the order sets out or they may be prosecuted or be served an Education Supervision Order (ESO) which will provide someone to help  arrange getting the child back into education. Penalty notices are sometimes given instead of prosecution; this is a fixed £50 penalty for the parents of children who miss school regularly, and will rise to £100 if not paid within 28 days. Failure to pay the fine will result in prosecution.

Prosecution of parents

Local authorities do not have to issue a penalty notice in order to prosecute parents. The result of a prosecution is usually severe, with fines of £2,500, a community order or even jail being considered an option if the court believes that this will ensure the child attends school. They may also impose a parental order, which will require the parent to attend classes on parenting and will set out guidelines which must be followed through regarding getting the child back into education.

If a child’s attendance is continually poor then a local authority may work with the parent to produce a parental contract, which is a voluntary arrangement to implement steps towards getting a child back into regular education.