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Education support

1. Attendance

The County Attendance Team is a countywide service responsible, by law, for ensuring parents/carers carry out their legal responsibility to ensure their children receive a suitable education.  

County Attendance Officers work with schools and families to provide advice and support on promoting:

  • Good attendance
  • Punctuality
  • Reducing unauthorised absences
  • Safeguarding vulnerable children and young people of statutory school age

Contact email:


What the law says

Parents have a legal responsibility for ensuring that children of compulsory school age receive a full-time education 'suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special education needs that they may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise' Section 7 Education Act 1996.

Parents whose children are on a school register and fail to ensure the regular school attendance of their children may be guilty of an offence under Section 444 or 444 (1A) of the Education Act 1996. The council may issue a penalty notice or take other statutory action through the courts to secure regular school attendance.


Legal interventions

Penalty notice

A penalty notice is used as an early intervention and is an alternative to prosecution under Section 444 of the Education Act for irregular school attendance which is not authorised by the school.

The school may request a penalty notice and one will be issued by the council if the request meets the criteria of the Code of Conduct. There is no right of appeal against the issuing of a penalty notice.

Parents may discharge their potential liability for this absence period by paying the penalty notice. Failure to pay the penalty notice may result in prosecution in the magistrate’s court under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.


The offence under Section 444 (1) of the Education Act 1996 carries a maximum fine of £1000 and the council will also seek to recover costs.

The more serious offence under Section 444 (1a) has a range of sentencing options for the court to impose on each responsible parent, including:

  • Fine of up to £2,500
  • Community-based sentence
  • Three months imprisonment
  • Subject to a Parenting order – can be added to other sentences
  • Costs may be awarded to the council


The importance of regular school attendance

Regular attendance at school is vital to help children achieve and get the best possible start in life. 

Children who frequently miss school often fall behind. There is a strong link between good school attendance and achieving good results. For example, only 12% of pupils with below 80% school attendance achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and Maths, compared to 68% for pupils with attendance greater than 95%. 

Good attendance at school shows potential employers that a young person is reliable. Young people who are frequently absent from school are more likely to become involved in or be a victim of crime and anti-social behaviour.

All schools in Buckinghamshire have their own attendance policies and are responsible for keeping accurate records of pupil attendance. They will contact parents directly if they have any concerns about a child’s attendance. Buckinghamshire County Council offers a range of services to support families who encounter difficulties in ensuring their children attend school regularly.


Your responsibilities as a parent

All children aged between 5 and 16 are required by law to receive an education, and it is the duty of parents and carers to ensure that they are supported to do so.

Children sometimes have to miss school because of illness or if they have long-term medical issues.  If this is the case, parents should contact school the same day to let them know the reason that their child is not in school.

Holidays during term time

Schools are not allowed to authorise requests for children to be taken out of school for a holiday during term time.

Requests for leave can only be granted by schools if there are exceptional circumstances, and holidays are not considered exceptional. Requests for leave must also be made to the school in advance, as the Department for Education has told schools that they cannot authorise any absences after they have been taken.

Penalty notice

A penalty notice is a fine for parents or carers if they fail to ensure that their child/ children attend school regularly.  Buckinghamshire County Council is responsible for issuing penalty notices on behalf of schools in the county. 

If a penalty notice is issued, it will be one fine to cover the whole period of the absence.  So the fine would be the same amount for an absence of five days or 10 days.  For example, a parent could be issued with a £60 fine if their child misses one day of school each week over a five-week period, whilst another parent might be issued the same fine for one two-week block of absence.

Penalty fines are:

  • £60 per child per parent if paid within 21 days
  • £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days

If the fine is not paid, parents will be reported for prosecution.

Please contact your child's school directly for details of their attendance policy. 

Payment of penalty notices

Information on how to pay your penalty notice online will be provided at the time of issue.

You will need to have the details provided on your penalty notice and a debit or credit card to pay.

Alternatively, you can send a cheque or postal order to:

The County Attendance Team
Buckinghamshire County Council
Floor 1
County Hall
Walton Street
HP20 1UA

Please include the payment slip provided stating your penalty notice number, name, and address.

If you have a query regarding payment please email The County Attendance Team at


Tips for good school attendance

  • Good habits start early in life, so even before your child starts school, establish good routines, such as reading before bedtime and going to bed on time
  • If your child is off school, you must let the school know why and tell them when they can expect your child back
  • Make all appointments for the doctor, dentist, optician etc. after school hours or during the school holidays where possible
  • Take an active interest in your child’s school work and offer support with homework
  • Attend parent’s evenings to discuss your child’s progress
  • Make sure your child understands the benefits of regular attendance at school
  • Don’t let your child stay off school for a minor ailment
  • Take all holidays during the school holiday periods
Print entire guide

Last updated: 24 August 2018

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