Academic Year 2020/21

Parental responsibility measures

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Introduction

This release includes information on parental responsibility measures for attendance used by schools and local authorities to improve poor attendance in schools.

It includes data on:

  • penalty notices 
  • attendance case management
  • parenting orders and parenting contracts
  • education supervision orders

The information is based on local authority data collected through the parental responsibility measures attendance census.


Headline facts and figures - 2020/21

  • There were 45,800 penalty notices issued in the 2020/21 academic year.
  • The majority of those, 76%, were issued due to unauthorised family holidays. 
  • Less than 0.2% were issued for being late and the remainder issued for other reasons  
  • No data was collected covering the 2019/20. The last available data refers to 2018/19.

The data for 2020/21 shows a very large decrease in the use of all measures. During this period, attendance at school was heavily disrupted by the pandemic, and for two months measures were disapplied when schools were not open to all pupils.

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Guidance

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About the data in this release

Data quality

The pandemic has had two major impacts on the data presented in this publication, described below. School attendance was also significantly disrupted in the 2020/21 academic year. As such all figures should be treated with caution when comparing to other years. Except for the two periods of lockdown set out below, Schools and local authorities were able to use their usual measures to improve attendance where appropriate.

Disapplication of offences in 2020/21

Due to the pandemic, the Secretary of State for Education issued legal notices, under the Coronavirus Act 2020, disapplying section 444(1) and (1A) of the Education Act 1996. These notices covered the period 7 January 2021 to 6 March 2021 which coincided with the period of national restrictions.

These notices disapplied offences relating to the failure of parents to secure regular attendance at the school of a registered pupil, and guaranteed that parents would not be prosecuted or receive a criminal conviction for not sending their children to school during this period. This was in line with the department’s commitment that no parent would be penalised for following public health advice.

No data is available for 2019/20

Due to the additional burdens faced by local authorities during the pandemic, a decision was also made not to run the data collection exercise for the 2019/20 academic year. This data has not been retrospectively collected and is therefore not available. Care should therefore be taken when looking across time periods that would otherwise include 2019/20.

During this period, disapplication notices were issued covering the period 1 May 2020 to 23 August 2020 which coincided with the first period of national lockdown.

Penalty notices

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

Attendance case management

What is attendance case management?

Attendance case management involves early intervention and a pupil specific approach to tackle absence problems. Common features of attendance case management include:

  • regular monitoring and follow-up of absence,
  • identification of underlying causes of absence or mitigating circumstances,
  • engagement with parents to prompt them to focus on their responsibilities to ensure their child’s regular attendance at school and
  • application of sanctions, for example prosecution, if improvements are not made within an agreed timeframe.

From 2016/17, data has been collected on all attendance case management rather than just fast-track cases, therefore numbers from 2016/17 onwards are not directly comparable to earlier data. Fast-track is one example of attendance case management which sets out actions and a period for improving a child’s attendance.

Attendance case management is a non-statutory process and is not used by all local authorities; therefore, figures at local authority level are not directly comparable. For more information, refer to the Parental responsibility measures: methodology guidance.

39,700 cases went through attendance case management in 2020/21. Of those, 60% of cases were withdrawn prior to prosecution.

Prior to the pandemic, the number of cases going through attendance management was 85,200 during 2017/18 and 82,100 in 2018/19.

Parenting orders and parenting contracts

What are parenting orders?

Parenting orders are issued by courts following prosecution for unauthorised absence. They include a requirement for parents to attend counselling or guidance sessions and to comply with specified requirements.  

What are parenting contracts?

Parenting contracts are voluntary but formal written agreements between parents and the local authority or the governing body of a school. They contain a statement by the parents agreeing to comply with the requirements of the contract, and a statement by the local authority or governing body agreeing to provide support to parents for the purpose of complying with the contract.

Only 8 parenting orders were granted in 2020/21

The number of orders was generally declining prior to the pandemic, from 439 in 2010/11 down to 117 in 2018/19.

7,800 parenting contracts were offered in 2020/21

of which, 5,800 were accepted (74%). Prior to the pandemic, 18,300 contracts were offered in 2018/19, of which 69% were accepted. 108 local authorities (71%) offered no parenting contracts in 2020/21.

Education supervision orders

What are education supervision orders?

Local authorities must consider applying for an Education Supervision Order (ESO) before prosecuting parents. A local authority may apply for an ESO instead of or as well as prosecuting parents. The order is made in respect of the child and the local authority is appointed by the court to supervise that child’s education, either at a school or at home, for a specified period of time.

Use of ESO's was declining prior to the pandemic.

There were only 17 ESO's issued in 2020/21, across just 8 local authorities.

Prior to the pandemic, the number of ESO's had been reducing. Data on the number of education supervision orders was first collected in 2016/17 when 90 were made, decreasing to 80 in 2017/18 and 34 in 2018/19.

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Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

Ask questions and provide feedback

If you have a specific enquiry about Parental responsibility measures statistics and data:

School absence and exclusions team

Email
schools.statistics@education.gov.uk

Telephone: Sean Gibson
0370 000 2288

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If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone
020 7783 8300

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If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

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