What to do if you don’t want to send your child to school in September - and can you be fined?
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Parents with fears about sending their child back to school in September have been urged to have a discussion with headteachers – but there are currently no plans to prosecute parents.
Sanctions for parents of pupils who were persistently absent from school were relaxed when the coronavirus-enforced lockdown meant children had to learn at home, except for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
But the Department for Education has mandated a return for pupils from September and ordinary measures can be pursued once again for those absent.
Legal measures to enforce school attendance can include a parenting order – where parents have to attend parenting classes, education supervision order, school attendance order, fines or eventually prosecution.
Allan Cadzow, director of children and young people at the council said: “It is important children are in school and we want to make sure we work with families to make sure children are safely in school, but we certainly won’t be rushing to prosecution.”
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Assistant director for education and learning, Adrian Orr said: “If a parent has got a real concern about the return of a child, we would encourage them to be talking to the school.
“In some cases the school will be setting out to allay a family’s fears but there may be circumstances where the schools and parents come to an arrangement with the child’s attendance.
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“We do want children to be back, and a lot of work has been done to make schools safe, but where parents have concerns they should talk to the schools.”
The council said it anticipates that authorised absences may increase where some parents are unable to send their child back and have made arrangements with the school.
Each school will have its own risk assessment programme and individually-tailored measures to address safety, and will have their own plans for what happens if a pupil or member of staff contracts the virus.
The authority confirmed it also had plans in place with the Public Health team if a Leicester-style local lockdown was needed for any part of the county, and that action plan would guide school attendance.
More advice and guidance is expected to be published over the summer weeks in the run up to the new school term.
Cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, said: “We want to keep parents informed because what we want is the start of the next school year to be as smooth as possible.
“Most schools have not stopped working since the start of lockdown.
“We have been in the position where the retail sector, pubs, restaurants have had to start again and re-open. Our schools have been open throughout and as they have taken more children they have worked through extensive risk assessments and analysis.
“They know their buildings, they know their cohort of children, they know their staff, so they are more prepared than other parts of the economy that are coming back into place because they haven’t stopped.”