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3. When must my child go to school?
Children must receive education:
The LEA educates some children out of school. You are also allowed to educate your child out of school, but you must give them a 'suitable education' (see 'Can I teach my child at home?').
If you don't register your child for a school, and you are not giving your child a 'suitable education' out of school, the LEA may serve you with a 'school attendance order'. This will name a school that your child must attend. It will also explain your right to apply to another school if you don't want to send your child to the named school. You will be breaking the law if you do not follow a school attendance order, unless you can show that your child is receiving a suitable education somewhere other than at school.
What happens if my child doesn't go to school?
The local education authority or school may take action against you if your child:
The school or LEA may ask you to sign a parenting contract if your child does not attend school regularly over a four-week period or longer. This is a written agreement asking you to take certain steps such as bringing your child to school. It should also include support for you and your child, and you could suggest anything you think might help. For example, it might include:
The contract has no legal force, but if you refuse to sign or do not keep to it, it could be used against you in any court action. The school or the local education authority can also issue you with a fixed penalty notice (a fine) of £50 or £100 - you pay the lower amount if you pay within a certain time. You cannot appeal against this fine. If you refuse to pay it, either:
If you pay the fine, you cannot be taken to court for that offence, but you could be prosecuted if your child continues to miss school without the school's agreement.
Can I be prosecuted if my child does not go to school?
If the LEA does decide to prosecute, each of the child's parents can be:
If the LEA can also show that you know your child is not going to school and you are not trying to make them go to school, each of the child's parents can be:
Under a parenting order, parents may also have to take more control over their child's behaviour - for example, by personally taking them to school each day. If a parent doesn't stick to the terms of a parenting order, they are breaking the law.
You should not be prosecuted if your child misses school:
This leaflet was published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with the Advisory Centre for Education.
Leaflet Version: November 2019
CLS Legal Info Leaflets
17 My child is being treated unfairly at school because of their disability. What can I do?