Early Help & Family Engagement: Fixed Penalty Notice Code of Conduct - School attendance

1. Rationale

  1. The Education Act 1996 is the primary legislation which governs the attendance of a child at school. Section 7 of The Education Act 1996 states that:

    'The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable…to his age, ability and aptitude, and…to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.’
  2. Regular and punctual attendance of children at school is both a legal requirement and a priority for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, to maximise the educational opportunities available to children and to ensure Rotherham’s children are resilient, successful and safe. The Local Authority will continue to investigate cases of regular absence from school and, following appropriate application of the School Attendance Matters Pathway (SAMP) which is Rotherham’s policy for poor school attendance, will instigate legal action where applicable and appropriate.
  3. In law, an offence occurs if a parent fails to secure a child’s attendance at a school in which they are a registered pupil, and that absence is not authorised by the school. Fixed Penalty Notices supplement the existing sanctions currently available under Section 444 of The Education Act 1996, Section 103 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 or Section 36 of The Children’s Act 1989 to enforce attendance at school where appropriate, subject to statutory defences.
  4. The Early Help and Family Engagement Service, within the Local Authorities’ Children’s Services Directorate, deliver this responsibility.
  5. Parents and children are supported at school and Local Authority level to overcome barriers to regular attendance in school through intervention and strategies and where required, through the Early Help Assessment and planning process (where there are additional welfare needs noted.) Sanctions of any nature are for use only where parental co-operation in this process is either absent or deemed insufficient to resolve the presenting problem.
  6. Sanctions are used primarily as a means of enforcing attendance as part of the SAMP high challenge, high support methodology, where there is a reasonable expectation that their use will secure an improvement.
  7. The Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2007 set out the procedures for issuing Fixed Penalty Notices to each parent who fails to secure the regular attendance of their child at school.
  8. Amendments were made to the 2007 Regulations in the Education (Penalty Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013. These amendments came into force on 1st September 2013.
  9. Amendments to 2007 regulations reduced the timescales for paying a Fixed Penalty Notice. Parents must, from 1st September 2013, pay £60 within 21 days or £120 within 28 days. This brought attendance Fixed Penalty Notices into line with other types of Fixed Penalty Notices and allows local authorities to act faster on prosecutions.
  10. In order to comply with Human Rights legislation, it is essential that Fixed Penalty Notices are issued in a consistent manner. The SAMP supports the consistent application of enforcement in Rotherham. This Code of Conduct will govern the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices in respect of unauthorised absence from school for holidays/ leave of absence taken in term time, and other unauthorised absence, for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.
  11. This code of conduct also takes into consideration statutory guidance Working Together to Improve School Attendance, May 2022.