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What will happen if my child does not attend school?

The Education Act 1996 states that parents must ensure their children of compulsory school age receive appropriate full-time education according to their age, ability and aptitude. Ordinarily this involves ensuring children attend school regularly and punctually during term time.

Only your child's school can authorise an absence from school. If your child is absent without good reason it will be recorded as unauthorised.

Surrey County Council has a statutory duty to enforce regular school attendance and the Education Welfare Service is designated to carry out this duty on their behalf. The Education Welfare Service and schools can use various legal powers if your child is missing school without a good reason.

Prosecution for failing to ensure regular school attendance

A parent is guilty of an offence if their child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly - Section 444(1) Education Act 1996. In such a situation if the parent knows that their child is not attending they may be prosecuted for a more serious offence – Section 444 (1) (a) Education Act 1996.

If prosecuted, you could receive a community order, a fine of up to £2,500 per parent/carer or a custodial sentence.

More information can be found in this leaflet: The court process - advice to parents

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School Attendance Order

A parent who fails to ensure that their child receives an education other than at school and fails to register their child at a school will be served with an Attendance Order requiring them to register the child at a named school.

Failure to comply with an Attendance Order is an offence under Section 443 Education Act 1996.

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Penalty Notice fine

Penalty Notices are fines of £60/£120 imposed on parents. They can be issued to each parent liable for the attendance offence or offences. Under Section 576 of the Education Act 1996 a 'parent' includes any person who is not a parent of the child but who has parental responsibility, or who has care of the child.

Penalty Notices are an alternative to the prosecution of parents for failing to ensure that their child of compulsory school age regularly attends the school where they are registered or at a place where alternative provision is provided.

Penalty Notices can only be issued by a head teacher or someone authorised by them (a deputy or assistant head), a local authority officer or the police. All schools and the police must send copies of penalties issued to the local authority.

Penalty Notices can be used where the pupil's absence has not been authorised by the school. Penalty Notices may also be issued where parents allow their child to be present in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification during the first five days of a fixed period or permanent exclusion. The parents must have been notified by the school at the time of the exclusion of this and the days to which it applies.

If you have been issued with a Penalty Notice and wish to pay it over the phone you can call the number contained in the contacts section. Alternative methods of payment are outlined on the Penalty Notice.

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Education Supervision Order

When it is clear that a parent is fully cooperating with the school and Education Welfare Service in trying to ensure their child's regular school attendance and it is the child who is resisting these attempts, the Local Authority may apply to the Family Proceedings Court for an Education Supervision Order in respect of the child under Section 36 Children Act 1989.

An Education Supervision Order is a court order that formalises the plan drawn up by Education Welfare in partnership with the child, parents and school as well as other agencies if appropriate, to bring about a return to regular school attendance.

Further information can be found in the following leaflets:

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Help and contacts

The legal process is dealt with by Court Presentation Officers. There are two Court Presentation Officers that work with schools based on the East and West side of Surrey.

West Surrey:

Robert Searle
Court Presentation Officer
Education Welfare
Surrey County Council
Quadrant Court
35 Guildford Road
Woking
Surrey
GU22 7QQ

Tel: 01483 517874

East Surrey:

Catherine Jones
Education Welfare
Court Presentation Officer
Consort House
5-7 Queensway
Redhill
Surrey
RH1 1YB

Tel: 01737 737718

You can also send us your comments and compliments or complain about our services.

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