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Referrals for Irregular School Attendance and Unauthorised Lateness

Page last updated: 14/09/2018

Referrals will only be accepted if the parent/carer has been issued with a warning letter within the previous 18 calendar weeks


Irregular Attendance 


Schools have two referral pathways to the Attendance Compliance Team: 

  • To request a penalty notice for irregular school attendance
  • Investigation as to whether a prosecution or Education Supervision Order is appropriate; this is generally for cases where there has been a previous prosecution or where the school is able to justify that a penalty notice may not be appropriate.
​*Please see specific criteria for each pathway and full supporting information here.

Prior to making a referral, schools must have issued each parent/carer with a formal letter warning of the possible legal implications of irregular attendance and advising of the possibility of a referral to the Local Authority.  Warning letters are valid for 18 calendar weeks from the issue date. The t​emplate warning letter​ must be produced on the school’s headed paper.  It is important that the wording within the letter is not changed as it is specifically designed to enable the progression of cases into the legal arena, if appropriate.

At referral, the Attendance Compliance Team require a copy of the attendance record showing a minimum of 12 school weeks attendance immediately prior to the referral and a copy of the warning letter.  The referrer will be required to confirm that the school has worked with the family, or attempted to work with the family, to remove barriers to attendance and have evidence (dated within the 4 weeks preceding the referral) which will be uploaded to the referral form.  Additionally, colleagues will be required to confirm that the Headteacher is in support of the Local Authority proceeding to prosecution for irregular school attendance under S444 Education Act 1996 should the penalty notice not be paid.

Unauthorised Lateness

Punctuality is a valuable lifelong skill.  Late arrival affects not only the pupil who is late, but disrupts the whole class and schools should actively discourage late arrival, be alert to patterns of late arrival and seek an explanation from the parent. Where a pupil arrives after the registers close, with no justifiable reason, the U code should be entered. In order to use the U code, it is essential that the time the registers close is published within school literature and regularly communicated in newsletters so that parents and carers are clear about the point at which their child will receive this mark in the register. The school is required to keep a record of arrival times and the policy must be applied consistently across the whole school and not restricted to particular pupils or year groups. As the U code amounts to an unauthorised absence for the whole session, a penalty notice may be issued where there have been at least ten sessions of unauthorised absence during the previous ten school weeks.  Evidential requirements are the same as for referrals for irregular school attendance.

Referrals for Irregular Attendance and/or Unauthorised Lateness
Referrals may be made using the online​ referral form​​.  Please note – this referral process is separate to the requests for an unauthorised leave of absence penalty notice, please continue to use the current online system for those requests. Information on unauthorised leave of absence can be found on the Referrals for unauthorised leave of absence page. 
To further assist schools, a referral checklist has been designed to ensure that all information is in place to enable the Local Authority to proceed to the Magistrates Court, if necessary.  It is for the school’s reference only and does not need to be attached to the referral form, however, should the case proceed to court, it includes the information we would require.