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DfE absence fines are changing

The way the Department for Education (DfE) issues fixed penalty notices (fines) for unauthorised absence is changing.


The DFE have provided updated information to headteachers and local authorities that will be implemented after the summer break.  This is a result of national record cases of school absence, including persistent absences.


Please read the information carefully.


Summary: Key changes:

  • An increased charge for unauthorised absences of 10 sessions (5 school days) within a 10 week rolling period. Fine increased to £160, per child, per parent. (for example: 2 children having 10 days or more unauthorised absence in a rolling 10 week period would result in a £640 fine total).
  • A 'within 3 years' of first offence escalation with no discount on fines
  • A 'within 3 years' of second offence resulting in Magistrate Court Action and fines up to £2500


Important.  The DfE clarifies that a 'desire or need' for a holiday or other absence for the purpose of leisure and recreation is NOT an exceptional circumstance.  Ignoring this directive will result in absence being unauthorised.




Penalty Notice Fines for School Attendance are changing from 19th August 2024

With the introduction of the new National Framework for Penalty Notices issued by DfE, the following changes will come into force for School Penalty Notice Fines issued after 19th August 2024.


National Threshold

There will be a single consistent national threshold for when a penalty notice must be considered by all schools in England of 10 sessions (usually equivalent to 5 school days) of unauthorised absence within a rolling 10 school week period. These sessions do not have to be consecutive and can be made up of a combination of any type of unauthorised absence.


Please note: The DfE does not consider a need or desire for a holiday or other absence for the purpose of leisure and recreation to be an exceptional circumstance.


First Offence

The first time a Penalty Notice is issued for unauthorised absence the amount will be:

  • £160 per parent, per child paid with 28 days.
  • Reduced to £80 per child, per child if paid within 21 days.


Per Parent, Per Child

  • Penalty notices are issued per parent for each child that was absent.
  • For example: 2 siblings absent from school for term time leave would result in each parent receiving 2 separate fines


Second Offence (within 3 years)

The Second time a penalty notice is issued for unauthorised absence the amount will be:

  • £160 per parent per child paid within 28 days.
  • No discount will be offered.  


Third Offence and Any Further Offences (within 3 years)

The third time an offence is committed a Penalty Notice will not be issued and the case could be presented straight to a magistrates court.  PRsecution can result in Criminal records and fines of up to £2500


Parent “who is a parent?”

Section 576 of the Education Act 1996 defines "parent" as:


  • All natural (biological) parents whether thay are married or not.
  • Any person who, although not a natural parent has responsibility for a child or young person.
  • Any person who, although not a natural parent has care for a child or young person.