Penalty Notices - UPDATED 7th MARCH 2023

Penalty Notices - UPDATED 7th MARCH 2023


We recognise that this is a significant issue for Bradford schools, with double the rate of absences due to unauthorised leave during term time being taken in Bradford compared to the national average.  In an effort to try and address this issue, we wanted to remind you that we can work together to utilise some of the other legal options available to us to try and get across the message of how important it is that children attend school regularly at the start of the new term in April.

As a reminder, we will consider legal action through the magistrates court as opposed to penalty notices in the following situations:

  1. A continuous period of unauthorised leave of 20 school days (40 sessions) or more
  2. Two or more periods of unauthorised leave totalling 10 school days (20 sessions) or more within a 12 month period. 

          NB – A period of leave which spans across two half terms will be treated as one period of leave.

Having reviewed our processes, we have also amended the penalty notice request form and template letters to ensure that they are fit for purpose, both of which are available below.

For the council to be able to consider this course the full range of legal options in these cases, schools need to:

  1. Ensure that parents are aware of the possibility of legal action being sought for instances of extended and multiple leaves of absence, and that this information remains accessible at all times i.e. is reflected in any changes to the school’s attendance policy.
  2. The relevant template letter is used when denying requests for leave during term time.
  3. The relevant penalty notice request form is used, indicated when the briefing was shared, and that you would like the full range of legal options to be considered in these circumstances.
  4. Email the penalty notice request to the council once the child has returned to school.

Penalty Notices

We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of our legal options, and ensure that the decisions we make reflect those that have the biggest impact in improving school attendance.

Penalty notices are fines imposed as an alternative to the prosecution of parents for failing to ensure that their child of compulsory school age regularly attends the school where they are registered or at a place where alternative provision is provided.

The penalty is £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt rising to £120 if paid after 21 days but within 28 days. The payment must be paid direct to the local authority. The parents can only be prosecuted if 28 days have expired and full payment has not been made. There is no right of appeal by parents against a penalty notice. If the penalty is not paid in full by the end of the 28 day period, the local authority (City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council) must decide either to prosecute for the original offence to which the notice applies, or withdraw the notice.

Penalty notices can be issued to each parent liable for the attendance offence or offences. Penalty notices can be used where the pupil’s absence has not been authorised by the school. Penalty notices may also be issued where parents allow their child to be present in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification during the first five days of a fixed period or permanent exclusion.  The parents must have been notified by the school at the time of the exclusion of this and the days to which it applies.

Bradford's new Penalty Notice Code of Conduct can be downloaded here: Penalty Notice Code of Conduct

To ensure compliance with the Penalty Notice Code of Conduct, all schools must undertake the following:

School action prior to requesting the issuing of a Penalty Notice:

  • The School’s Governing Body has endorsed the operation of the penalty notice scheme;  
  • The School’s Attendance Policy clearly explains the criteria and process for addressing poor attendance, and the expectation is that all children should attend every day that the school is open except for sickness, unavoidable causes, religious holidays, or absences authorised by the school.  Ultimately, no sessions of unauthorised absence are acceptable, and where an exception may apply, the parent may be asked for evidence to collaborate this.  
  • The School has fully considered any extenuating circumstances and has established there are no justified causes for the absences;  
  • A written notice has been sent to parents informing them of the consideration to refer to the Local Authority to issue a penalty notice;
  • While the Head teacher can delegate the authority to a member of staff to make penalty notice requests on their behalf, all referrals must be authorised by a member of the Senior Leadership Team to ensure that referrals are made in line with the code of conduct.  
  • It is good practice to ensure that parents are reminded on an annual basis of the school’s policy on attendance, including the existence of Penalty Notices.

The next sections provide further information on the reasons why a penalty issue may be issued, the criteria that must be met, what happens next, and how you can request a penalty notice. 

Poor Attendance


A pupil has 6 or more sessions of unauthorised absence in the 6 weeks (60 Sessions) prior to a notice being requested and their attendance has not been below 80% (24 sessions of absence) in the last 12 weeks (120 Sessions) prior to a notice being requested. 

Requests will not be considered where the request is made more than 6 weeks after the last session of unauthorised absence.

Penalty Notices for Poor Attendance are to be used as an early intervention tool to address low level absence concerns before the situation becomes entrenched.  Research conducted by the DfE found that penalty notices were most effective when used to address occasional absences where a child's rate of attendance started to fall below 90%.  We would encourage schools to make use of this tool, as quite often it's the Penalty Notice Warning Letter that can have the biggest impact in bringing a child's attendance rate back over 90%.

Penalty Notices for Poor Attendance should not be used to address entrenched levels of pupil attendance, as they will have little impact.  It is for this reason that Bradford Council will not accept poor attendance penalty notice requests where a child's rate of attendance is below below 80% in the last 12 weeks.  In these situations, schools are encouraged to apply Stage 2 of the Staged Intervention Approach to Attendance to try and address the situation.

More information on Penalty Notices for Poor Attendance is below:


  1. Pupil's absence triggers school's criteria for poor attendance intervention (i.e. attendance falls below 95%).  School Letter 1 is issued making parent aware of concerns regarding the pupil's attendance. - Download Template
  2. The pupil's poor attendance continues and unauthorised absence continues to be recorded.  The number of unauthorised absences is coming close to meeting Bradford's criteria for issuing a penalty notice.  School Letter 2 is issued making parent aware of this, and that a penalty notice may be requested if further unauthorised absence occurs - Download Template
  3. Further unauthorised absence is recorded.  Poor Attendance Penalty Notice Request form is completed and submitted. Download Referral Form
  4. Bradford Council issues a Warning Letter, providing the parent with 20 school days to rectify the situation or a penalty notice will be issued. 
  5. Further unauthorised absence is recorded - Penalty Notice issued. OR No further unauthorised absence is recorded - No Further Action


  • Has the parent been regularly contacted by the school to establish the reasons for absence or is there established parental non-engagement in response to phone calls, letters or invitations to school based meetings?
  • Could there be underlying issues which need to be explored with the parents at a school based meeting to identify if any support is required?
  • When parents are separated and do not live at the same address, establish how much involvement each parent has in caring for the child/ren. If one parent has little involvement, consider whether it is in the public or family’s interest to issue a fine to both parents.
  • Parents/Adults over the age of 18 who live at the same address as the pupil will be equally responsible for the pupil's attendance and consideration should be given for requesting penalty notices for each individual adult.

Required documentation:

  • A fully completed poor attendance penalty notice request form;
  • A copy of a general absence letter, making parent aware of absences and consequences of continued unauthorised absence
  • A copy of a penalty notice warning letter, making parent aware of the continued unauthorised absences, that a penalty notice may be requested from, and issued by, Bradford Council should any further unauthorised absence occur.  NB This letter must be dated during the absence period this referral relates to
  • Attendance certificate covering the "offence period" only - The 6 week period a penalty notice is being requested for.  This certificate must be signed and dated by the head teacher.
  • Attendance certificate covering the last 12 months.
  • Any additional evidence in relation to the absence ie letter from parent etc.  

Tips and Advice:

  • The parts of the letters highlighted in yellow are mandatory, and cannot be edited/removed.  We will reject any requests where mandatory parts of letters have been removed or altered.  

  • Download the template letters above and upload them to your MIS system so that they can be easily mail merged and produced.

  • Print off a list of all your children with attendance below 95% in the last 6 weeks.  Filter the list to leave you with those with at least 1 unauthorised absence, and remove those with attendance below 80% in the last 12 weeks.

  • Issue Letter 1 to the parent/carers of all those on the list.

  • Continue to review the attendance of those children identified.  Should 3-4 unauthorised absences be recorded in a 6 week period, issue Letter 2.

  • Should the criteria of 6 unauthorised absences in the last 6 week be met, submit Poor Attendance Penalty Notice Request Form.


  1. Letter 1
  2. Letter 2
  3. Poor Attendance Referral Form  PLEASE EMAIL COMPLETED REFERRALS TO 

Unauthorised Leave of Absence during term time:

A leave of absence of three days (6 sessions) or more was taken during term time without the school’s consent in the 6 weeks prior to a notice being requested.


  1. Parent completes school's Leave of Absence Request form;
  2. Headteacher (or delegated person) considers every application individually and decides that "exceptional circumstances" are not present; 
  3. Parent is notified in writing that the leave of absence request has been refused, detailing the reasons why, and the consequences should the leave be taken, including the requesting of a penalty notice from Bradford Council; Download Template Letter
  4. Parent continues to take the pupil out of school during term time, and unauthorised absence is recorded;
  5. Unauthorised Leave of Absence Penalty Notice Request is submitted - Download Referral Form
  6. Penalty Notice is issued.


  • The family’s circumstances and the likely benefits to the child and family of the period of leave, taking into account social, emotional and cultural reasons;

  • The likely detrimental impact on the child’s social, emotional and intellectual development, attainment level and any SEN of the taking of a period of leave.

  • Meeting parents to explore exceptional circumstances such as bereavement, funerals abroad, unavoidable cause (illness/flight delays) to determine the reasonableness of delay to return and allow parents the opportunity to provide appropriate evidence. This is to reduce the need for subsequent Local Authority Penalty Notice withdrawals based on retrospective evidence;

  • Siblings in other Bradford schools. Liaise with other schools in individual cases to agree a consistent approach in considering term time holiday requests and penalty notices;

  • The child’s previous attendance record;

  • Consider exceptional circumstances put forward by the parent, explicitly setting out considerations taken by the school in a letter to the parent confirming when requests are unauthorised.

  • The Local Authority advises schools that no leave of absence should be authorised for children unless exceptional circumstances apply.

Notices can be issued without warning where schools can show that a leave of absence was taken during term time without the consent of the Head Teacher and the parent was made aware in writing of the decision to unauthorise the period of absence, the reasons why (including details of any evidence), and the possible consequences, including the issuing of a fixed penalty notice. 

Required Documentation:

  • A fully completed Unauthorised Leave of Absence penalty notice request form;
  • Term-time leave request submitted by Parent;
  • A refusal of leave letter from the school outlining:
    • the exceptional circumstances the school has considered;
    • setting out the reasons for refusal;
    • A statement regarding the consequences of taking an unauthorised holiday, including the issuing of a penalty notice if a pupil continues to be absent during this period.
    • NB - the parts of the letters highlighted in yellow are mandatory, and cannot be edited/removed.  We will reject any requests where mandatory parts of letters have been removed or altered.
  • OR a retrospective refusal of leave letter from the school outlining the same as above, but including details of how the school has reached the assumption that the child has taken an unauthorised leave of absence;
  • Attendance certificate covering the unauthorised leave period only.  This should be signed and dated by the head teacher.
  • Any additional evidence in relation to the absence ie letter from parent etc. 
  • Please note - referrals must be sent 1 family per email. Emails with more than one family will not be accepted. Please add LOA and the pupils initials in the email subject field and email to 


  1. Refusal of Leave Letter
  2. Retrospective Refusal of Leave - Reasons Known
  3. Retrospective Refusal of Leave - Reasons unknown
  4. Unauthorised Leave of Absence in Term Time PN Referral Form
  5. REVISED - Refusal of Leave Letter (Extended / Multiple Leaves of Absence)
  6. REVISED - Unauthorised Leave of Absence Prosecution Request Form (Extended / Multiple Leaves of Absence)

Excluded Pupil found in a public place


A pupil is found unsupervised in a public place during school hours during the first 5 days of exclusion without good reason.


The "Good Reason" - this might include attendance at a medical appointment, YOT appointment or other appointment with a statutory or voluntary agency.

Required Documentation:

  • A fully completed Poor Attendance Referral Form
  • A copy of exclusion letter sent to the parent in relation to the child.  The letter must include a statement notifying the parent of their responsibilities during the first 5 days of the exclusion together with the consequences of non-compliance, including the issuing of a penalty notice if the child is seen in a public place during the first 5 days of an exclusion.
  • Attendance certificate demonstrating that the child was absent due to an exclusion during the day in question.
  • A written statement(s) from the witness(es) documenting their account in relation to seeing the child in public.  The statement must include details of the location, date and time that the child was seen, and how the witness knew / recognised the child.  Statement must also state that the witness is happy to appear in court if necessary to provide their account in front of the Magistrates.
  • Supporting evidence, including any photographic / video footage of the child present in a public place ie CCTV.

Please email all requests to If a penalty notice remains unpaid, a witness statement must be provided by a member of staff from with the School or Attendance Management Service and/or a Police Officer/Community Support Officer who stopped the excluded pupil in a public place during school hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Period of Absence do I request a Penalty Notice for?

For Unauthorised Leave of Absence Penalty Notice requests, the dates you need to include would be the start and end dates of the leave period, the period which is coded as “G” on the attendance certificate.  Remember, you must submit the request within 6 weeks of the last date of the unauthorised leave of absence. 

For Poor Attendance Penalty Notices, the period you would need to include must be 6 weeks (60 sessions) long, and include 6 to 23 sessions of unauthorised absences.  

For Excluded pupils, you only need to state the date that the pupil was seen in a public place.

These dates are important as it informs us of the period of absence you are concerned about, as well as ensuring that the letters that have been issued align themselves to the period of absence you are concerned about.


Can you tell me more about the letters I should be including in the request for a penalty notice for Poor Attendance?

We require a minimum of two letters to be issued.  One letter should make the family aware of the absences and offering support, and a second challenging the parent, informing them of continued concerns, and that further unauthorised absence could lead to a request to Bradford Council for further action, including the possibility of a fine being issued. 

Whilst the first letter can be issued at any point during the academic year, the second “challenge” letter should ideally be sent during the 6-week period of absence the penalty notice is being requested for.  This demonstrates that the parent was informed of the possible consequences of poor attendance, but the child has continued to record unauthorised absence.  However if this letter has been issued, no further unauthorised absence occurs and a school submits a referral, the referral will be returned and no further action taken.  

Example letters have been made available to download in the previous section.


Talking about Letters, what about letters for Leave during term time?

All schools should have in place some kind of Notification of Leave of Absence form that parents can be given to complete and sign.  As well as basic parent and child details, the parent should also be asked:  

  • Reasons/Explanation for the leave request
  • Destination(s) whilst on leave
  • Last Day / Return Date
  • Sibling(s) also on trip
  • Parent(s) also on trip  

All requests for leave made by parents should be responded to via a separate letter, confirming their application, the reasons for the leave and the days that permission for absence have been requested for.  Where an application is refused, the letter must demonstrate that the parent’s individual circumstances have been considered, and that the Headteacher (or person with delegated authority) does not believe that exceptional circumstances exists.  

It is not acceptable for just the request form to be returned, signed by a member of staff with a short sentence at the bottom of the form saying the leave request has not been accepted. A letter must be sent evidencing that consideration for the request has been given and that the explanation given does not meet the schools threshold of an exceptional circumstance.  

If a child is absent for a period of time, but the school becomes aware either during the absence or afterwards that the leave was actually a leave of absence that would have been unauthorised had a request for leave been made, then a penalty notice can still be requested from Bradford Council.  In this situation, the school should write to the parent providing details of why they believe the child was absent from school, why the absence is now considered an unauthorised leave of absence, that the matter is now being passed to Bradford Council, and that a Penalty Notice may be issued. 

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