Suffolk: Tough new anti-truancy rules could see families fined £120 if child misses just one day of school
PUBLISHED: 14:28 24 June 2014 | UPDATED: 16:12 24 June 2014
Parents could be fined up to £120 if their child misses just one session of school, if tough new anti-truancy rules are introduced by Suffolk County Council.
Proposals put before the local authority’s cabinet suggest an overhaul of the current Penalty Notice Code of Conduct – which some head teachers described as no longer “fit for purpose”.
Currently children have to miss 10 unauthorised sessions before being referred to the local authority, at which point parents are sent a letter of warning. If the pupil has a further unauthorised absence a fine will be imposed.
But these rules are described as out of date and no longer effective in a paper prepared for the council’s cabinet.
Council officers now want permission to issue an immediate fine of £60 per parent upon receiving a referral from a school informing them of an unauthorised absence.
Further unauthorised absences would be subject to the Education Welfare Service or, in the case of academies, referred directly for prosecution.
The council also said it was “not acceptable” that 229 schools didn’t use the current Penalty Notice Code of Conduct.
The proposed change was in response to the requests of schools, according to the council report.
Last night Howard Lay, head teacher of Samuel Ward Academy, said he was fully in favour of the proposal.
“It might sound punitive but I believe the more children miss school the more they miss out on achieving good grades which helps them in the future, and the more detrimental that will be to them,” he said.
“Schools generally do a really effective job at improving a young person’s capability in many areas, not just academic but vocational skills. For a child to miss out on that is potentially catastrophic.
“You look around the world at many countries where parents and pupils will do quite significant things to access education. Pupils walk miles and miles. In Britain it’s free.”
He added: “The more power the LA has to ensure that pupils are in school and not disengaging the better.”
However the secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Suffolk said fines weren’t the way forward.
Graham White added: “I don’t think that fining parents for taking their children out of school is going to have any impact at all.
“One of the reasons parents take their children out of school is holidays because it’s more expensive to take them away during the school break. But the savings that they make from doing that are greater than the fine.
“For me I don’t think it’s the right way forward, we need to educate parents and make the educational arguments about why children should be in school.”
Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “As a busy parent myself, I know that it can sometimes seem necessary or desirable to take your child out of school.
“We have an excellent education welfare service in Suffolk and our staff work hard with police to educate parents about the need to ensure their children are in school.
But sometimes tough action is needed to enforce the point that a child’s education must always come first.
“If parents, teachers and head teachers combine their efforts in discourage truancy, educational standards in Suffolk will improve.”