The BBC is reporting that official figures show the number of parents taken to court in England because of children skipping school rose sharply last year.
In 2014 16,430 people were prosecuted for failing to ensure their children went to school, an increase of more than 3,000 – or 25% – on 2013.
Ministry of Justice figures, obtained by the Press Association, revealed more than three-quarters were found guilty…
The rise follows a crackdown on children missing school, including new rules on term-time holidays, which were introduced two years ago.
The 2014 figures, gathered in a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice, show:
- 12,479 people found guilty of truancy offences – up 22%
- 9,214 fines, averaging £172, issued by courts – up 30%
- 18 jail sentences in 2014 – compared with seven in 2013
- Ten of those jailed and more than half (58%) of those fined for a child missing school were women
Parents can be issued with on-the-spot penalty notices of £60 per child by schools, rising to £120 if unpaid after three weeks, if their child has an unauthorised absence.
Failure to pay, or incurring two or more fines, can lead to parents being referred to the local authority’s education welfare service, which has the power to take them to court.
Courts can issue maximum fines of £2,500 or jail sentences of up to three months.
“Good attendance is absolutely critical to the education and future prospects of young people,” according to Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.
But David Simmonds, of the Local Government Association, said the increase in fines reflected “tighter enforcement by schools that are under pressure from Ofsted to meet attendance targets”, as well as a rising school population.
He called for more flexibility in the rules to allow heads to take account of family circumstances where absence was unavoidable…
I suspect there are few surprises in the overall trend in these figures, but what would to expect now moving forwards?
Is this going to be a blip as parents struggle come to terms with the crackdown on attendance, with a subsequent reduction moving forwards, or would you expect the number of offences to stay high or even rise further?
Please share your insights and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…
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