Key Considerations

A Penalty Notice (PN) is a suitable intervention in circumstances where the parent/carer is failing to ensure that their child attends school on a regular basis. Sanctions of this nature are for use only where parental co-operation is either absent or deemed insufficient to resolve the problem and are used as a means of enforcing attendance where it is likely that their use will secure an improvement. The key consideration in deciding whether or not to make an application to issue a PN, will be whether it will be effective in improving a child’s attendance.

A PN is an alternative to prosecution and will only be issued where the council is "able and willing" to prosecute (DCSF Guidance on Education Related Parenting Contracts, Parenting Orders and Penalty Notices, September 2007, para 186). Before a PN can be issued, Head Teachers and ACE team must be satisfied that the particular episode of unauthorised absence, looked at in the context of the individual child and his/her family, warrants criminal proceedings against the parents. They must also have considered alternative methods of securing attendance. The Tri-Borough PN Code of Conduct in London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and City of Westminster allows only authorised officers of ACE to issue PNs. Police and Head Teachers should not issue PNs except in exceptional circumstances.

If accepted, the usual response to a first offence might be a warning letter rather than a penalty. However, authorised officers have the discretion to issue a PN for the first offence in circumstances. Once issued, a PN will incur a fine of £60.00 per child if paid within 21 days of receipt of the notice, rising to £120.00 per child if paid after 21 days but within 28 days of receipt. If the penalty is not paid in full by the end of the 28 day period, the Local Authority (LA) reserves the right to prosecute the parent(s) for the original offence of failing to secure the regular attendance of their child at their registered school, not for non-payment of the fine.

The Tri-borough’s PN Code of Conduct recommend issuing no more than "one Penalty Notice resulting from the unauthorised absence of an individual child in any twelve month period". However there may be cases where it is appropriate to issue more than one PN to a family during a 12-month period and these will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.