Hertfordshire County Council’s Code of Conduct for Penalty Notices states that where a child has had 15 unauthorised sessions absences in the current and/or previous terms (a session is a half day), the school may request a penalty notice be issued. The absences may have occurred in a single block, a series of odd days/lates after registers closed, and/or unauthorised holiday. The code of conduct is a statutory document that ensures that the powers for this legal sanction are applied consistently and fairly across all schools and their families within the authority.
Penalty Notices can be issued when
- a pupil has taken holiday during term-time and the absence has not been authorised by the school, providing the school has taken into account DfE guidance to inform its decision-making
- where the school believes that the sanction will lead to an improvement in attendance, e.g. persistent late arrival at school; parents’ failure to attend/co-operate at a parenting contract meeting
Parents and carers will be warned about the possibility of a penalty notice being requested for unauthorised absence by a letter, the school’s attendance policy and website.
If more than one parent has parental responsibility, both parents will receive a Penalty Notice. In situations where there is more than one pupil in a family with irregular school attendance, multiple penalty notices can be issued to the same parents during the year. However, this action must be subject to careful consideration and co-ordination.
Where the school has tried to address a pupil’s unauthorised absences but the measures taken have been unsuccessful, it can then refer on to the Local Authority School Attendance Officer. If there is either no improvement in the attendance nor satisfactory evidence provided for the absences following their intervention, then it is likely legal action at Magistrates Court will be initiated.
Sanctions available to the court are as follows;
- a fine of up to £2,500
- a conditional discharge – you will be given a set amount of time in which to improve your child’s attendance. Should you fail, the Council may bring a further prosecution against you and, if found guilty, you will be sentenced for both offences
- an absolute discharge – the case is proved but you will not be subject to a penalty, although you will receive a conviction
- a community order such as unpaid work, curfew or tagging
- imprisonment – for up to three months