School absences

As a parent, you are legally responsible for making sure your child gets a full-time education. Children must get an education from the school term after their 5th birthday until the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.

For most parents, this means making sure your child is in school every day, except when:

  • they are too ill to go to school
  • there are exceptional circumstances and the headteacher has given permission
  • your religious body has a day especially for religious observance.

Support if your child refuses to go to school

The first step is to talk to your child's school about why your child is missing school and what they can do to help.

Try to encourage your child to go to school as much as possible while you're waiting for help and support.

Legal action to enforce school attendance

We can use various legal powers if your child is missing school without a good reason. We can give you:

  • an Education Supervision Order
  • a School Attendance Order
  • a fine (sometimes known as a penalty notice).

We can give you one or more of these, but we do not have to do any of them before prosecuting you.

Find out how you can pay a school penalty notice.


We may prosecute you to protect your child's right  to a full-time education if you:

  • do not make an effort to improve your child's attendance
  • have allowed your child to miss school without a good reason.

If you're found guilty you may be given a:

  • parenting order
  • community order
  • fine of up to £2,500
  • jail sentence of up to 3 months.