Making a Penalty Notice referral - leave in term time

The conditions in which a PN application could be made are as follows:

1. Where a family has taken leave without permission and the school is satisfied that the parent knew the procedures, providing the leave is equal to or more than 9 sessions (4 ½ days).

2. Where leave of absence has been agreed and the pupil arrives back equal to or more than 9 sessions (4 ½ days) after the agreed time without explanation.

3. Where no application for leave has been made, providing the period of absences equal to or more than 9 sessions (4 ½ days).

A PN will only be considered for unauthorised absence where the LA is able and willing to prosecute and satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to show that an offence under Section 444 has been committed and no PN has been issued in relation to the child within the previous twelve months. A parent may receive a separate PN for each child taken out of school.

The normal response to a first offence would be to issue the family with a PN warning rather than a penalty. However PNs may be issued for the first offence in more serious offences, for instance when the family regularly take holidays during term time and their period of absence is a continuation of a trend. In cases where a child has been absent for less than 9 sessions (4 ½ days), the ACE team recommend issuing the family with a warning letter as an alternative to making a referral for a PN.

Full information must be provided by schools before the ACE team can consider issuing a PN. A fully completed referral form should be forwarded to ACE with all the required evidence attached. (Appendix B). Once this information has been received then the request will be considered by the ACE Team. All referrals will normally be actioned within 10 working days of receipt and a response will be provided to the referring school. Please see appendix C for a flow-chart of action following referral.

Once a PN has been issued, parents often contact the ACE team with a variety of reasons why it should not have been issued. Providing in-depth referral information would assist our service with managing these issues.

A parent will not normally receive more than one PN resulting from the unauthorised absence of an individual child in any twelve month period. If unauthorised absence persists after the issue of the first PN, it would normally be appropriate to prosecute or address the attendance using an alternative intervention.

Once a PN has been issued, it may only be withdrawn by the ACE team on behalf of the Local authority in the following circumstances:

  • the Notice has been issued to the wrong person
  • the Notice should not have been issued (for example where evidence has been provided after the notice being issued, which covers the period of absence under the conditions of medical absence or unavoidable cause)
  • where the Notice contains material errors (eg: wrong address)
  • in the circumstances of exclusion, reasonable justification has been made out by the parent

There is no specific sanction for the non-payment of a PN, and no specific means of enforcement. However, where the penalty has not been paid at the expiry of the period, the LA has to consider whether to prosecute the parents for the original offence of "failure of their child to attend regularly at the school where the child is a registered pupil". In the vast majority of cases proceedings would be initiated, however in consultation with borough Legal Services a number of factors would be considered when taking the decision to prosecute. The most common reason for not continuing with proceedings is incorrect/inconsistent information being provided on the referral form. For this reason it is important to ensure that information provided to the ACE team is correct and up to date.