What are penalty notices?
Penalty notices are issued to parents for failing to ensure that their child attends school.
The amount payable is £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt rising to £120 if paid after 21 days. If the penalty is not paid within 28 days, the local authority must either prosecute for the original offence or withdraw the notice.
There were 45,800 penalty notices issued in 2020/21
Over three quarters of these, 34,900, were issued for unauthorised family holidays (76%). Further to the impacts of the pandemic on possible attendance and the disapplication of penalty notices, the pandemic also had significant impacts on the ability to travel and on tourism in general.
The use of penalty notices varies greatly by local authority. 15 local authorities issued 10 or fewer, including 7 local authorities that issued no penalty notices. 22 out of 152 local authorities (14%) accounted for over 50% of penalty notices.
There was a clear trend prior to the pandemic
Following a general upward trend from 2009/10 to 2012/13, regulations amended in September 2013 (which stated that term time leave may only be granted in exceptional circumstances) are likely to be a contributing factor to the sharper increase between 2012/13 and 2014/15.
The changes in trend since 2015/16 follow the Isle of Wight Council v Jon Platt cases where the local authority issued proceedings against a parent who had taken their child on a term time holiday. Local authorities with large increases were asked to provide reasons and many cited the Supreme Court judgement, either as a result of returning to pre-court case levels following a slowdown or from a change in behaviour since the ruling. Further information on the cases are given below:
- October 2015 - The magistrates’ court ruled that the parent had no case to answer.
- May 2016 – The High Court supported the earlier ruling.
- April 2017 - the Supreme Court, however, ruled that no children should be taken out of school without good reason and clarified that ‘regularly’ means ‘in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school’.
In 2018/19, there were 333,400 penalty notices issued, up from 52,400 in 2012/13