School attendance

By law if your child is aged 5 to 17 years old, she or he must be in full-time education. Your child can be educated at school or at home.
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Attendance at school: your responsibilities

If your child is to be educated at school, you must:
  • register your child at a school
  • make sure your child goes to school regularly
  • make sure your child goes to school on time.

Registering your child at a school

You must enrol your child in a school or tell us if your child is in another form of education. If you do not do so, you could face legal action.
Children who are not enrolled in full-time education are ‘missing from education’.

Going to school regularly

Going to school regularly is very important as it will help your child to:
  • develop social skills and confidence by making friends and socialising
  • prepare for adult life by getting used to a routine
  • get better results and so improve his or her chances in life.
And research shows that it also limits the risk from:
  • physical and emotional harm
  • exploitation by unsuitable adults
  • getting involved in crime and anti-social behaviour
  • achieving poor school results and poor prospects.

Missing school without permission

Schools check pupils’ attendance twice a day by taking a register. If your child misses school without permission, the school records this absence as ‘unauthorised’. This will affect your child’s attendance record and could lead to a fine or even legal action.
If your child is ill and you do not tell the school, the school will record the absence as unauthorised. If your child misses more than five days of school, and you do not give the school proof of the medical problem, the school will record the absence as unauthorised.

You can no longer take your child out of school on leave in term time. If your child takes term-time leave you could be fined. Only in some very special cases can a headteacher give permission for this kind of absence.


Truancy is when your child misses lessons or does not go to school because she or he chooses not to.
As a parent or carer, you must make sure your child:
  • goes to school every day
  • arrives on time
unless there is a very good reason such as illness.

Report a child missing from school

If you know of a child near you who does not appear to be in school, you can use our online form to let us know.

Action we can take if your child misses school

Penalty notices 

We can send you a penalty notice (fine) if:
  • your child’s attendance falls below 90 per cent in a term period without a good reason
  • you take your child out of school during term time (for holidays for example) without agreeing the leave with the school
  • your child is delayed returning from a period of leave and you have not agreed this with the school
  • your child arrives at school after the registers have closed more than 10 times
  • your child is excluded from school but is seen in a public place during the first five days of that exclusion.
The fine is £60 per parent, per child if you pay within 21 days of receiving the notice. If you do not pay the fine within 21 days, but pay it within 28 days, the cost will rise to £120. If you do not pay at all, we may take legal action.
Pay a non-attendance penalty notice
The penalty fine is per parent per child, so a family with two parents will pay two fines if one of their children fails to go to school.
For more information you can read our Code of conduct for the issuing of penalty notices document (PDF).

Legal action

If we take you to court, you could be fined up to £1,000. But if we have to take you to court more than once, the result could be a fine of up to £2,500 or up to three months in prison.

Helping your child go to school

We will work with you to make sure your child goes to school regularly and on time. We can:
  • help you to deal with the difficulties which stop your child from going to school regularly
  • visit you at home or make time to see you at school or at our offices
  • put you in touch with other services, if you need more advice or support.
Contact us for more information.
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