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School attendance

Court procedures (school attendance)

The Education Act 1996 states that parents must ensure their children receive appropriate full-time education according to their age, ability, and aptitude. This usually means making sure a child registered at school attends regularly and on time.

Anyone who has the care of a child, or who has parental responsibility, is responsible for making sure the child has good attendance. Failing to do so can result in a penalty notice being issued, or prosecution.

The legislation says: 'If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence' (s.444(1) of the Education Act 1996).

If you refuse to register your child at a suitable school without a good reason, we may send you a School Attendance Order. If you do not comply with the Order, we may prosecute you.


Prosecution is a serious step. We only use prosecution after talking to your child's school and any other relevant people.

Your child's school will supply the evidence for prosecution, which will be an attendance certificate signed by the headteacher. The Magistrate must accept this as a true record of attendance.

The Education Welfare Officer (EWO) attached to the school will also provide evidence, including evidence of contact with parents or carers. The EWO will have offered support to parents / carers, and the opportunity to work with them to improve their child's attendance. Attendance case conference / review meetings will have been held to give parents / carers the opportunity to explain their child's absences.

What happens if we prosecute you

The proceedings


We'll say you committed one of two different offences if we decide to prosecute you for failing to make sure your child attends school regularly: Offence S444(1) or Offence S444(1A). Both offences are similar, but the 1A offence is more serious. If you're found guilty, you could go to prison for up to three months.

If we're prosecuting you under Offence S444(1):

You'll be sent a summons via the Single Justice Procedure. It will ask if you intend to plead guilty or not guilty. You must complete it and return it to the Magistrate's Court.

You should also be sent copies of the evidence for prosecution, including statements made by the Education Welfare Officer.

We encourage you to get legal advice.

If we're prosecuting you under Offence S444(1A):

If you have to go to court, you'll be sent a summons saying the time, date, and place of the hearing. You should also be sent copies of the evidence for prosecution, including statements made by the Education Welfare Officer. You'll also be asked if you intend to plead guilty or not guilty. We encourage you to get legal advice before the hearing.

On the day of the hearing, you should arrive on time and go to the court's reception. If you have any problems attending, or any other questions about the proceedings, please contact the Magistrate's Court.




If you've pleaded, or been found, guilty, the Magistrates can impose a fine of up to £1,000 for an offence under S444(1) of the Education Act 1996. Costs may also be awarded against you, which means you'll have to pay more than just the fine. The amount of fine and costs you'll have to pay is linked to your income.


If it's proven that you knew your child wasn't attending school regularly, and you didn't have a good reason for failing to make sure they attended, you may be found guilty of an offence under S444(1A). In this case, a fine of up to £2,500 may be imposed and / or a prison term of up to 3 months.

Magistrates sometimes issue a Conditional Discharge, which means that your child's attendance will be monitored. If you fail to make sure your child attends school during the period of a Conditional Discharge, you may be fined for both that offence, and the original offence.

The Magistrates may also impose a Parenting Order or Community Order.

Parenting Order


A Parenting Order requires the parent to attend counselling / guidance sessions for up to three months. It may also require a parent to comply with specific requirements for up to 12 months, for example escorting the child to school each day. Breaching the Parenting Order can result in further prosecution.

Community Order


A Community Order can be imposed for offences which are serious, but not serious enough to warrant a prison sentence. It means your punishment will be carried out in the community instead of prison. A Community Order is made up of one or more 'requirements' which the court can order you to do.