Prosecution for not going to school regularly

The Education Act 1996 states that parents and carers must make sure their children receive an appropriate education by attending school regularly.

If a parent or carer fails to ensure this, they are guilty of an offence and can be prosecuted. Proceedings will take place in a Magistrates Court.

Prosecution is a serious step and parents or carers will be given the chance to talk to the school and the council’s Attendance Advisory Service to School and Academies (AASSA). They must also make efforts to improve their child’s attendance before prosecution is considered.

Defences against prosecution

Parents have the right to challenge the attendance certificate or grounds for prosecution if the:

  • headteacher authorised the absence
  • absences are due to sickness or unavoidable cause (if your child is referred to AASSA we will request medical evidence to record the absence as authorised)
  • absences were for religious observance
  • school that has been allocated by the local authority is beyond the statutory limits for walking and no transport is available (two miles for children under eight and three miles for pupils aged eight and over).

Parents must prove one or more of these reasons apply if they wish to challenge their child’s non-attendance on the register.

Providing medical evidence for absences due to sickness or unavoidable causes

If absences are due to sickness or an unavoidable and you've been referred to the AASSA, you will need to provide medical evidence.

This does not have to be a doctor's certificate and could be:

  • an appointment card for a doctor or dentist
  • a copy of a prescription
  • boxes or bottles of prescribed medication.

If your child's attendance does not improve and medical evidence is not provided to the school or academy the AASSA can write to your child's GP to ask for medical evidence (with your consent). 

Magistrate Court proceedings

If you are requested to attend court you will be sent a summons stating the time, date and place. You will be sent copies of the prosecution evidence and will be asked if you intend to plead guilty or not guilty.

It is in your interest to get legal advice find free or affordable legal help from Citizens Advice Bureau.

On the day of the hearing you should arrive on time and report to the court's reception.

If you have difficulties attending or any other questions regarding the proceedings, contact us by emailing or by phoning 01634 334 239.


If you have pleaded or been found guilty of the offence of which you have been summoned, the magistrates have the power to impose penalties including:

  • a fine up to £2,500
  • a conditional discharge 
  • a community service order
  • a suspended prison sentence
  • imprisonment for a term (no longer than 3 months)
  • any court costs.

Education Supervision Order (ESO)

The magistrates can request the AASSA to consider applying for an ESO. This can be instead of a prosecution or as well as it.

ESOs allow the service to give parents instructions on securing a proper education for their child. Parents are consulted before an order is applied and the court will agree if an ESO is in the best interests of the child.

The first order is for one year. Extensions can be requested which may be for up to three years at a time and these extensions are possible until the child leaves school.

If a parent does not comply, they can be taken back to court and fined. Cases can also be referred to social services for investigation and consideration of further proceedings.

School Attendance Orders

Parents will receive a School Attendance Order if they refuse to register a child at a suitable school without good reason.

This order names an appropriate school and requires you to enrol your child at this school.

If you do not comply with the order you will receive a court summons and face prosecution.