Academic year 2018/19

Parental responsibility measures

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National and local authority data on penalty notices, cases entering fast-track case management, parenting orders and parenting contracts.

Headline facts and figures - 2018/19

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About this release

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  
  • prosecutions following non-payment of a penalty notice
  • 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.

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.

  • The number of penalty notices has increased by 28 per cent from 260,900 in 2017/18 to 333,400 in 2018/19.
  • The majority of penalty notices were issued because of unauthorised holidays, 86 per cent in 2018/19. 0.3 per cent were issued for pupils being late and 13 per cent were issued for other unauthorised absence.
  • 76 per cent of penalty notices issued in 2018/19 were paid within 28 days. 10 per cent were withdrawn, 7 per cent led to prosecutions and 8 per cent were unresolved at the end of the period.
  • The increase in penalty notices of 28 per cent compares with an increase of 4 per cent in the unauthorised absence rate as published in the 2018/19 “Pupil absence in schools in England” statistical release. The rates of unauthorised absence due to holiday and late arrival remained steady at 0.4 and 0.1 per cent respectively in 2018/19.

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’.

How does practice vary locally?

In 2018/19, the region with the greatest rate of penalty notices issued (as a percentage of pupil enrolments) was Yorkshire and the Humber, at 7.2 per cent, the region with the lowest rate of penalty notices issued was the Inner London at 2.3 per cent.

Local authorities may show a large rise or fall in the number of penalty notices issued from year to year due to changes in local policy.

Every local authority must draw up a code of conduct for issuing penalty notices and there is considerable variability in the number of penalty notices issued at local authority level from zero to 24.4 per cent of enrolments. For more information, refer to the Parental responsibility measures: methodology guidance.

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.

The number of cases going through attendance case management was 85,200 during 2017/18 and 82,100 in 2018/19, a decrease of 4 per cent. Around half of all cases, 44,600, were withdrawn before prosecution in 2018/19.

The Department has queried local authorities with large decreases (78 local authorities have reported decreases, 59 reported increases and the rest remaining stable). Some have reported that the decreases are a result of the local authority moving to providing a statutory service only, with schools responsible for early intervention work and local authorities responsible for attendance enforcement work. As such, some early intervention case management may still be occurring in these local authorities but by schools and not reported in the data. Conversely, a small number of local authorities have recorded large increases, some of which are explained by these local authorities now being able to record this school activity.

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.

  • The number of parenting orders decreased by 24 per cent from 153 in 2017/18 to 117 in 2018/19. The number of parenting orders has followed a generally downward trend from 439 in 2010/11.  
  • The number of parenting contracts offered decreased from 19,200 in 2017/18 to 18,300 in 2018/19. This follows an increase between 2016/17 and 2017/18 but there has been no clear trend in recent years. 69 per cent of parenting contracts were accepted by parents in 2018/19.

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.  

Data on the number of education supervision orders was first collected in 2016/17 when 90 were made. Following a small decrease to 80 in 2017/18, the number in 2018/19 decreased further to 34.

Help and support


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.

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards. Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing or via the OSR website.

Contact us

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

School Census Statistics Team

Contact name: School Census Statistics Team

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