This guidance explains the roles and responsibilities of parents, schools and the local authority in ensuring children’s regular school attendance, and the law relating to school attendance

It also discusses the range of legal interventions available to the authority and, in some circumstances, to the school to enforce school attendance.

The document describes the procedure for bringing a prosecution against a parent who has failed to ensure their child’s regular school attendance, and explains what happens at the Court hearing and the sentencing options available to the Court in the event that the parent is found guilty of an offence.

This guidance replaces the 2003 edition, and is part of a suite of documents on managing attendance all of which are available from the website below.

Visit the Behaviour and Attendance website


  • Introduction
  • Parental responsibility for school attendance
  • School Attendance Order
  • Resolving school attendance problems
  • Case management: “Fast-track to attendance”
  • The role of schools: monitoring school attendance
  • School-level action to improve school attendance
  • The role of the local authority: working with schools
  • The offence of failing to ensure regular school attendance
  • Regular attendance at alternative provision
  • Parenting contracts
  • Penalty notices
  • Education Supervision Order
  • Prosecution
  • Conduct when investigating an offence
  • Formally notifying the parent
  • Commencing proceedings
  • Serving the summons
  • The Court hearing
  • How guilty pleas can be dealt with in the absence of the defendant
  • What happens if the defendant fails to attend the hearing
  • Evidence
  • Sentencing options available to the court
  • Parenting order