School attendance, absence and truancy

School attendance

Going to school regularly is important to your child’s future. Children who miss school frequently can fall behind with their work and do less well in exams.

Good attendance shows potential employers that your child is reliable. Research suggests that children who attend school regularly could also be at less risk of getting involved in antisocial behaviour or crime.

The law

By law, all children become compulsory school age at the beginning of the first term following their 5th birthday. Once a child is of compulsory school age children must receive a suitable full-time education. For most parents, this means registering their child at a school. However, some choose to make other arrangements to provide a suitable, full-time education.

Once your child is registered at a school, you are legally responsible for making sure they attend regularly. If your child fails to do so, you risk getting a penalty notice or being prosecuted in court.


Authorised absence

If your child is ill or unable to attend school for some reason, you should contact the school by phone to notify them. Depending on the reasons for absence, the Head Teacher will decide whether the absence can be authorised or not. Where absence is sickness related schools may require medical certification, particularly where the absence lasts a few days.

Unauthorised absence

Absence from school is likely to be recorded as unauthorised absence when:

  • there is no parental explanation
  • the school is not satisfied with the explanation for an absence.

In either of these situations you could face prosecution.

Head Teachers are no longer permitted to agree a Leave of Absence during term time unless in exceptional circumstances. This includes where parents decide to take their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. If a parent intends to take their child out of school for a leave of absence during term time, they must have requested this in advance and had their request agreed by the Head Teacher. Failure to do this could result in a fine or prosecution.

In Nottinghamshire, parents can be fined if their child has in excess of 3 days unauthorised absence over a 6 week period.

Appealing against a Penalty Notice Fine

There is no right of appeal against an Education Penalty Notice once it has been issued correctly and in line with the Nottinghamshire Code of Conduct. 

Penalty Notice fines can only be withdrawn in specific circumstances as set out within the national regulations and the local code of conduct.

If a parent believes that the reason for their child’s unauthorised leave of absence from school in term time was not properly understood and that it should have been considered as exceptional by the Head Teacher then the parent needs to have that discussion directly with the school.

The local authority cannot overturn a Head Teacher’s decision to unauthorise a pupil’s absence from school during term time.

Pay a fine

If you need to pay a Penalty Notice Fine please phone 0115 804 3500.

If you have received a Penalty Notice Fine and have a question about it you can email


Support from school

Your child’s school is the first place to go to discuss any attendance problems. If your child starts missing school, there may a problem you are not aware of. Ask your child first, then approach their teacher or form tutor.

The school should try to agree a plan with you to improve your child’s attendance. If you don’t follow the plan and things don't improve, the school will take further action.

Support from the council

The council can also help if you are struggling to ensure that your child goes to school. Potential forms of support include:

  • support to help reduce the burden on children where families are in difficulty (for example, if a child is spending a lot of time caring for someone)
  • working with families and schools to overcome bullying and other serious problems.

If you think you need this help you can contact the Early Help Unit 0115 804 1248.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question about the Penalty Notice Fine you have received please review the Frequently Asked Questions [PDF].

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