Legal measures for unauthorised absence

There are different types of legal measures that the Legal Intervention Team can use

Penalty notices

The education penalty notices (England) regulations 2004 came into force on 27 February 2004.

The local authority, headteachers (deputy and assistant headteachers authorised by the head) and the police, can issue penalty notices (Section 23 of the Anti-Behaviour Act 2003).

Penalty notices address unauthorised absence from school. This could be where it is reasonable for the school to expect the parent to ensure the child's regular attendance.

The full penalty per parent per child is £60.00 paid within 21 days of receipt of the notice or £120.00 if paid within 28 days. If the notice is not paid in full by 28 days of receipt, the Attendance Legal Panel will make a decision as to whether the Legal Intervention Team will proceed with prosecution. The prosecution is for failing to ensure attendance at school, not for non-payment of the fine. Prosecutions are brought under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

Penalty notices issued for non attendance in Hampshire Schools fall under Hampshire's Code of Conduct.

Parenting contract

A parenting contract is a formal, written and signed agreement. It is between parents/carers the local authority and the governing body of a school.

A parenting contract should contain a statement by the:

  • parents/carers that they agree to comply for a specified period with whatever requirements are set out in the contract
  • local authority or governing body and/or school agreeing to provide support to the parents/carers to comply with the contract

Parenting contracts can be agreed at Education Planning Meetings where cases have been approved by Hampshire’s Attendance Legal Panels. They are for cases of serious misbehaviour or irregular attendance at school or alternative provision.

Parenting contracts are voluntary, but the school or local authority will record any non-compliance. This may be used as evidence in court where an application is made for a parenting order.

School attendance order

Hampshire’s Attendance Legal Panels can issue a School Attendance Order if it believes a child of compulsory school age is not receiving an education.

Parents/carers are given 15 days to provide evidence that they have registered their child with a school or that they are home educating. The Order requires the parent to send their child to a named school. If they do not, they may be prosecuted under Section 443, Education Act 1996.

Education Supervision Order (ESO)

An Education Supervision Order is an order granted in the Family Proceedings Court requiring you and your child to follow directions made in the Order and work alongside a Supervising Officer to improve your child's school attendance. The supervisor must advise, assist, befriend and give directions to the supervised child and the child’s parents/carers. This is to ensure that the child is properly educated.

Hampshire County Council must consider an ESO before a prosecution. It is possible in law to apply for an ESO as well as prosecute a parent/carer. The Magistrates’ Court can make ESOs in its capacity as the Family Court.

Parenting orders

If the parent/carer is prosecuted, a Magistrates’ Court can make a Parenting Order. This is an additional order that the court can make if the parent/carer is convicted.

A parent/carer must meet the conditions/actions set by the magistrates to improve their child’s school attendance. This includes notifying the school on the first day of absence and providing medical evidence for each absence.

The parent/carer may also be ordered to attend a parenting skills course. This can be useful if the parent/carer has younger children, as the course may assist the parent/carer to ensure their younger children's regular attendance.

Authorisation to prosecute

Hampshire’s Attendance Legal Panels (ALP) can:

  • authorise legal action (i.e. prosecution under Section 443, Section 444(1), Section 444(1A), Education Act 1996)
  • make an application for an education supervision order

Hampshire Legal Services list a case before the nearest Magistrates’ Court to the child and parent/carer to:

  • serve the summons and evidence on the parent/carer

The legal intervention court officer will be notified of a court hearing. They will liaise with the school regarding their attendance at court by any witness who has provided a statement.