Educational welfare services

Child attendance and absence enquiries

If your child fails to attend school regularly, a school may request that the Local Authority make enquiries into the period of absence.

Absences could include holidays where no authorisation has been granted by the school or absences for which the school have not been provided with sufficient evidence to authorise the absence, for example, medical evidence.

Once an absence enquiry has been received from a school, the Local Authority will issue a fixed penalty notice.

If the penalty notice is not paid, the Local Authority will issue a Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (‘PACE’) questionnaire which will provide a parent with the opportunity to explain the reasons and provide evidence in respect of the absence.

Please note: If your PACE questionnaire does not disclose a defence to the offence, the Local Authority cannot offer a further fixed penalty or extend the time for payment of a penalty notice.

Once all the evidence has been collated, the Local Authority will follow a graduated response and decide the outcome of the enquiry.

This could include:

  • no further action
  • a warning letter
  • a caution
  • prosecution

If a child of compulsory school age, who is a registered pupil at a school, fails to attend regularly at the school, their parent is guilty of an offence (Section 444(1) Education Act 1996).

We strongly recommend that if you are experiencing difficulties with your child’s school attendance, that you discuss it with your child’s school.

The following questions and answers may offer further support.

As a parent you decide what you want to do but parents have a legal duty to ensure that their children attend school or the alternative provision on a regular basis.

Head Teachers may not grant any leave of absence (holiday) during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. The Head Teacher and Governing Body will determine what the exceptional circumstances are and not the local authority.

The parent or carer with whom the child resides must apply in writing to the school. The letter or application must explain the exceptional circumstance surrounding the request for the leave of absence.

The Head Teacher will determine whether the exceptional circumstance ruling applies, if not they may decline the application.

Only the Head Teacher (or the Deputy) has the power to approve leave of absence applications. Schools will make a referral to Swindon Borough Council for an absence enquiry who will then investigate and determine an outcome through a graduated response.

You will receive a written response from the Head Teacher (or the Deputy) letting you know if your application has been approved. If the holiday goes ahead after the application has been declined, the absence will be recorded as unauthorised.

Each respective head makes their own decision and they may have differing views.

The school may apply for an absence enquiry. On your return you will receive a Police and Criminal Evidence Questionnaire ( PACE 1984) providing you with opportunity to explain the absence and provide a defence or medical evidence. You will have 14 days to respond to the PACE questionnaire should you wish.

The Local Authority will then make a decision following a graduated response as to the appropriate outcome.

It is likely that the absence will still be unauthorised and you may still receive a penalty for absence.

The fine is £60 if paid within 21 days; thereafter the fine doubles to £120 if paid within 28 days. A fine is issued to each parent for each child, for example, if a child has two parents (including step-parents or partners) -  2 x £60 = £120.

No, there is no right of appeal.


If you are issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice the letter you receive will have the details of how to pay the fine. This will include the link to the form and the unique reference number.

You may be prosecuted in the Magistrates Courts which could result in a criminal record.

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