Back to school: Can I be fined for refusing to send my child?
- Credit: PA
Pupil absence teams are being established to clamp down on non-attendance when children return to school next week.
As children across Norfolk return to classrooms at Norfolk’s 422 schools, the Department for Education (DfE) is preparing to tackle parents and children reluctant to return by recruiting teams of “attendance advisers”.
Many Norfolk schools have written to parents to outline that attendance for all pupils is mandatory from the start of the new term.
One such letter to parents of pupils at Hellesdon High School states: “Attendance and punctuality at school plays a pivotal role in the academic success of students.”
It adds: “It is worth noting that even if your child has 90pc attendance at the end of the year, they still will have missed 19 days of schooling, almost four weeks that will have a detrimental impact on their progress.”
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Legal measures to enforce school attendance can include a parenting order – where parents have to attend parenting classes, education supervision order, school attendance order, £60 fines or eventually prosecution.
New attendance advisors are part of a wider back-to-school campaign from the Department for Education (DfE) to reassure parents and pupils and avoid disruption to schools by driving up Covid testing and vaccination among young people.
They are being recruited on short-term contracts to work with councils and multi-academy trusts where absence rates are above average on measures to meet the DfE’s priority “to reduce overall school absence as we recover from the pandemic”.
Former local head Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said school leaders are “very concerned” about attendance during autumn term, and added that it would “not be surprising” if some parents decide to home-school their children because of Covid fears.
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“What schools and colleges do not need is having any higher than average absence levels being picked over by attendance advisers,” he said.
“They have become experts at managing absence during the pandemic and will not appreciate the government finding money for more bureaucrats when it has failed to invest in a proper recovery plan for young people.”
How much can I be fined?
In normal circumstances, parents can be fined £60 for refusing to send their child to school under what’s known as an unauthorised absence.
Local councils can give each parent a fine of £60, which rises to £120 each if they do not pay within 21 days. If they do not pay the fine after 28 days you may be prosecuted for a child’s absence from school.
If the case goes to court they could get a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence of up to three months. The court can also impose a parenting order.