Can you be fined for refusing to send your child back to school?
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School children across Norfolk are returning to classrooms next week after a six-month hiatus as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government has made it clear that it is “compulsory” for all children to go back to school except where there are local lockdowns.
But some parents say they fear schools are not safe - and that children could contract coronavirus, or bring it home.
MORE: Four in 10 Norfolk parents still have back to school worries, EDP survey findsAn EDP survey of parents found 44pc were either very or quite nervous about sending their child back into the classroom.
If you’re still concerned about your child’s welfare, will you be liable for a penalty fine if you don’t send them?
All of Norfolk’s 422 schools have written parents to outline that attendance for all pupils is mandatory from the start of the new term.
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One such letter to parents of pupils at Ormiston Venture Academy in Gorleston states: “You will be aware that the law requires all parents to ensure that their child attends school regularly. Research has shown that children often do not catch up on work missed, which can have serious consequences for their learning and their progress.
The government remains very clear that no child should miss school apart from in exceptional circumstances and schools must continue to take steps to reduce absence to support children’s attainment.”
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It goes on to outline the measures and sanctions parents could face.
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.
Although the Government is keen to stress the minimal risk to children in the classroom, schools minister Nick Gibb has said fines will only be used as a “last resort”.
MORE: ‘No rush’ to fine parents not sending children to school in SeptemberThough attendance policies are set by schools, it is a message echoed by local authorities, which recognise that some unauthorised absences may initially be higher than normal as parents adjust.
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “Schools will be required to take a balanced approach when dealing with attendance matters, and will need to recognise, and be mindful of the impact that Covid-19 may have had on both the pupil and the wider family.”
Headteachers and teachers’ unions have been urged to “build confidence” with families by not rushing to reintroduce fines.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and a former headteacher in Bury St Edmunds, said that the organisation doesn’t believe fining parents if their children do not attend school in September is the “right approach”.
“There will be many frightened and anxious parents out there, and this is very much a case of building confidence that it is safe to return, rather than forcing the issue through the use of fines,” he said.
How much can I be fined?
In normal circumstances, parents can be fined £60 for refusing to send your 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 up to three months. The court also gives a Parenting Order.