Fixed penalty notices - code of conduct

Use of fixed penalty notices

The inclusion and attendance team are responsible for delivering this function. Penalty notices will only be issued within this Code of Conduct.

Fixed penalties are one of the tools available to the LA to tackle poor school attendance and anti-social behaviour issues.  Where thought appropriate alternative approaches such as Education Supervision Orders and prosecution may be utilised at the discretion of the LA.

Use of fixed penalty notices will be restricted to two per child per academic year. In situations where a parent meets the criteria for more than one penalty notice to be issued because there is more than one child with irregular school attendance, multiple issues may occur. Where a child resides with two parents a separate penalty notice will be issued to each parent.

Parents must always be forewarned of the possible issue of a fixed penalty notice by the school through a Fixed Penalty Notice Formal Warning letter. A Formal Warning letter (see sample letter 1 and sample letter 2) can also be issued by the school in cases where a fixed penalty may not be suitable. An example of this might be when parents request a period of absence that does not meet the 15% absence criteria but it is still a period of unauthorised absence. This would show consistent practice in relation to application for absence during term time.

There is no restriction on the number of times a parent may receive a Formal Warning letter of the possible issue of a fixed penalty notice.

If a penalty notice is issued whether paid or not it may be used in evidence in subsequent criminal proceedings in relation to either:

  • non-­school attendance or
  • being in a public place during school hours whilst excluded from school

This includes regular patterns of term time absence such as unauthorised annual holidays.

Where a penalty notice may be Issued

Fixed term penalties will only be issued where the LA is satisfied that the criteria for prosecution would be met if the option of a fixed penalty notice is not taken up by the parent. The circumstances in which a notice may be issued are:

  • where a child is absent from school due to unauthorised absence of 15% or above over a six-week period. This will include lateness after the close of registration when code U is used
  • where a child is present in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification during the first five days of any exclusion


It must be remembered that to count as non-attendance at school the absence must be unauthorised. The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 have removed the reference to holidays during term time. It now provides that a leave of absence during term time will only be granted where an application is made in advance to the school and the school consider that the leave of absence should be granted due to exceptional circumstances relating to that application.

What amounts to "exceptional circumstances" is a matter for the discretion of the head teacher. It should be judged on a case-by-case basis.  It is unlikely to amount to an exceptional circumstance if it is merely claimed that:

  • a holiday abroad can only be afforded in term time or
  • that a parent is unable to take leave during school holidays. (This is a matter between the parent and their employer).

Head teachers should also consider asking for evidence of the circumstances that has arisen where appropriate.