Information for Parents


To ensure that children receive and have access to the best education possible, it is essential that they attend school regularly and punctually. Missing half a day of school each week adds up to almost four weeks over a school year, and more than four terms over the seven years of primary school education. The school promotes, encourages and celebrates full attendance so that pupils can fulfil their potential.

Amendments to The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 came into force on 1 September 2013. These amendments make it clear that headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. By definition, exceptional circumstances do not occur regularly or frequently.

Unauthorised absences are those that the school does not consider reasonable and do not fall within the category of “exceptional circumstances”.

Following guidance from North Somerset, and to create a consistent approach across schools, reasons that may support an application for absence in term time include:

  • Forces Personnel home from a foreign posting;

  • Emergency service workers, when leave restrictions are in force;

  • A significant family event or circumstance (such as a weekday family wedding); each case would be considered individually. [Where the event is a weekday family wedding, only the day of the wedding could be agreed.]

Absence for exceptional reasons cannot be authorised if a child’s current and/or previous year’s attendance is below the national average (currently 96.1%).
Parents and carers wishing to take a child out of school in term time should complete a Pupil Absence Request for Exceptional Circumstances form, giving a clear reason for the request. This should be done well in advance of the requested date and before any holiday booking takes place. The expectation of the Local Authority is that term time holidays should not be planned or booked as a matter of course as they are likely to be unauthorised and may lead to the issuing of a penalty notice (fine) [see below].
If absence is taken without permission from the Headteacher, this will be recorded as unauthorised in the school register and on the school attendance computerised records. A referral may be made to the Education Welfare Service together with a request for the Education Welfare Service to issue a penalty notice.
Late arrival (after the morning or afternoon register has been taken) is recorded as unauthorised absence, unless the school considers that the cause is reasonable (eg the church car-park is not unlocked, or there is a failure of the school transport provided by North Somerset).

Penalty Notices

Penalty notices can be issued by the North Somerset Education Welfare Service when a child is absent without authorisation for a total of ten sessions (not necessarily consecutive) within any six month period. [A session equals a half-day: morning or afternoon.]

Penalty notices are issued to each parent who fails to ensure their child’s regular attendance at school (or fails to ensure that their excluded child is not in a public place during the first five days of exclusion).

  • Each parent can be issued with a penalty notice for each child for unauthorised absence: currently, £60 if paid within 21 days, or £120 if paid within 28 days.

  • Non-payment will result in the Education Welfare Service considering prosecution.

Authorised officers have the discretion to issue a penalty notice without warning where the parent has chosen to take the child on leave during term time without authorisation, or evidence is subsequently found to suggest a child was away from school with the knowledge of the parent and does not meet the statutory defences mentioned below.

If the Penalty Notice is not paid, a summons to appear in Court for an offence under Section 444(1) of The Education Act 1996 can be issued and can result in a criminal conviction. Courts have a wider range of sentencing options, which could include a fine of up to £1000.

The only statutory defences to the offence under Section 444(1) of The Education Act 1996 are:

  • The child was absent for medical reasons

  • The LEA failed to provide transport when required to do so

  • The absences were due to religious observance

  • The school had granted permission or there was a reasonable unavoidable cause

    Published: July 2015