Pupil non-attendance is a deeply worrying issue and statistics demonstrate that the problem has significantly worsened since the pandemic, with increasing numbers of children seemingly lost to the education system. This is on top of the numbers of children missing selective school days for holidays and other deemed non-essential absences.

The Education Act 1996 contains several criminal law measures which can be used by local education authorities, with penalties ranging from fixed penalties to prison sentences in the worst cases.

This week the government has announced new measures that make it more likely that parents will be punished for the non-attendance at school of children in their care.

The measures include:

Consistency of punishment

Parent fines for unauthorised absences will be brought under a national framework to help tackle inconsistencies in their use. A fine to parents must be considered if a child misses 5 days of school for unauthorised absence. Alongside this, costs for fines will go up from £60 to £80 if paid within 21 days and from £120 to £160 if paid in 28 days which will ensure all parents are aware of when they might face a fine to ensure all councils are issuing fines appropriately.

Data sharing

Every state school in England will now share their daily attendance registers across the education sector – including with the department for education, councils, and trusts in the next stage of the government’s drive to reduce pupil absence in school.

The sharing of daily school registers will form a new world-leading attendance data set that will help schools spot and support children displaying worrying trends of persistent absence or those in danger of becoming missing in education.

Schools, trusts and councils will be able to access this data via an interactive secure data dashboard maintained by the department for education. This will allow them easy use of the data to not only spot pupils in need of support but also to understand how their attendance position compares locally and nationally so they can look at where they might need to drive improvements.

Statutory Guidance

Key guidance setting out how schools and local authorities must take a ‘support-first’ approach to help pupils and their families to tackle barriers to attendance will be made statutory from August 2024. The working together to improve school attendance guidance sets expectations including regular meetings between schools and local authorities to agree plans for the most at-risk absent children.

It particularly emphasises the importance of support for pupils with SEND and mental ill health who often need more individual consideration due to wider barriers. It asks schools, local authorities and wider services to work together to support these pupils, encouraging early intervention and close working with families to address their individual needs.



How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819