School non-attendance is an offence under the Education Act 1996. This act creates two distinct offences as set out below:
- Section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996 states that a parent who fails to secure their child's regular school attendance has committed an offence, and
- Section 444(1A) a parent commits an offence if they knowingly fail to secure their child's regular school attendance.
Local authorities are entitled to bring non-attendance proceedings in situations when a child who is registered at a school is not attending.
This is a criminal prosecution and can result in fines. This can also result in a convicted parent acquiring a criminal record, which can have serious and devastating consequences to their livelihood and reputation.
The sentence range available to the Court in relation to both offences specified above range from a conditional discharge to a community sentence, such as a curfew or unpaid work order. However, in the most serious circumstances a prison sentence of up to 3 months can be imposed against a parent who has been convicted of an offence under section 444(1A) of the Education Act 1996.
We are often contacted by parents who believe they are being prosecuted unfairly because:
- The reason for the child's non-attendance is because they are too ill to attend (for example, if they have school based anxiety etc.); or
- Because they consider the school is not suitable for their needs
Often in these cases, the local authority are issuing proceedings in situations when they should actually be providing education outside of school (for example if there is evidence to show your child is too ill to attend).
If this is the case, we can advise in a number of ways including:
- Assisting and advising the parent through the criminal process (which is likely to be in the Magistrates Court)
- Advising as to whether the LEA should be providing home education and, if so, assisting with a legal challenge relating to this
- Advising in relation to how to secure placement at a different school if you have concerns regarding the suitability of the present school
We regularly appear in Magistrates' Court on a nationwide basis and have particular expertise in challenging the prosecution's evidence and in presenting mitigation by way of a damage limitation exercise.
Contact us now to discuss how we can help you by completing our, no obligation, online enquiry form if you find yourself prosecuted for an Education Act offence. We will call you back or you can call us on freephone: 0808 129 3320.