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Legal action to enforce penalties

9 January 2018

We have a duty to ensure you carry out your legal responsibility of making sure your child attends school. The Missing Education and Child Employment Service investigate issues around lack of attendance and may visit a pupil’s home if they are absent from school without authorisation.


If unauthorised absences continue, you may be issued with a £60 penalty notice, per parent/carer, per child. Failure to pay will lead to prosecution with maximum penalties of up to £2,500 or a custodial sentence.

Penalty notice fines for missing school

Recent changes to Essex Code of Conduct for Penalty Notices

The Essex Code of Conduct for Penalty Notices has recently been updated and changes came into effect on 1st October 2017. Parents should be aware of the main changes below:

  • A penalty notice may be issued if 10 unauthorised absence sessions have occurred during a 10 week period (N.B. Each school day is made up of 2 sessions)
  • A penalty notice may be issued if there are 6 or more unauthorised sessions due to a holiday taken during the first two weeks of September (this will apply for holidays taken during September 2018 onwards)
Reasons for issuing a fine
Penalty notices can be issued by the Missing Education and Child Employment Service in
accordance with the code of conduct for the following circumstances:
  • Truancy/unauthorised absence
  • Pupil identified during a school attendance and exclusion sweep
  • Holidays in term time without permission
  • Excluded pupils found in a public place during the first five days of exclusion without a justifiable reason

Cost of fines

  • A £60 penalty notice fine may be issued to each parent or carer for each child, to be paid within 21 days
  • If this is not paid within the 21-day period, it will increase to £120
  • If this is not paid within 28 days, you will be prosecuted in the magistrates’ court for failing to ensure your child attends school regularly


Pay your fine


Please note: We will never contact you by telephone asking for payment without first sending you a penalty notice by post.


If you receive a telephone call requesting a fee payment without first being notified in the post, do not pay it. Contact the Missing Education and Child Employment Services on 03330 139844. 


Alternatively, report the incident to the Counter Fraud Team on 01245 431146.

Legal action

GOV.UK has information on other legal options that can be taken with regard to school absence, including:


  • a Parenting Order
  • an Education Supervision Order
  • a School Attendance Order