Parents are once again being reminded that they face prosecution if their child does not attend school every day.
As pupils return after the summer break, Nottingham City Council has revealed that a campaign of truancy sweeps is planned for the first few weeks of term. The authority is also writing to all headteachers in the city to reinforce the importance of good school attendance.
The message is ‘Back to school – every day matters’, and enquiries will be made on children who are reported to be out of lessons during school hours through a ‘Check and Challenge’ hotline.
The City Council – at the request of schools – will also issue penalty notices of £120 per parent, per child, for any children taken out of school during term-time. This will be referred to the magistrates’ court if not paid.
Parents of children who are persistently absent may be summonsed to court where a fine of up to £2,500 could be imposed. The courts also have the power to issue community orders and even prison sentences.
Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills at Nottingham City Council, said: “We’ve made huge strides on improving attendance in schools across the city and we make no apology for working with headteachers to go after the parents of children who regularly skip classes.
“You cannot pick and choose when you attend school – unless a child is ill, they should be there every day. We will have people out on the streets in the coming weeks of the new term looking to challenge any pupils who are not in school.
“The message to parents is that you can be prosecuted, fined, and even face prison, if you do not ensure your child is in school every day.”
Latest overall absence figures for primary and secondary schools in Nottingham continue to show a fall. Aside from a 0.2% rise in 2012/13, absence has been coming down steadily since 2009/10 when the rate was 7.2%.
The figure currently stands at 4.8% for 2015/16 against a national average of 4.6% – the smallest gap for seven years. Nottingham has climbed from joint 143rd in 2013/14 to joint 111th in 2015/16, out of 152 local authority areas.
‘Overall absence’ is defined as including both authorised leave, when a school grants permission for a pupil to be absent, and unauthorised when permission is either not sought or not granted.
The Council has been cracking down on pupil absence for a number of years, both by issuing fines to parents at the request of schools, and celebrating good attendance through the annual Lord Mayor’s Attendance Awards and the award-winning ‘Get In:volved’ promotion with Capital FM.
Working in partnership with schools and academies, the authority has maintained a zero-tolerance approach – making it clear that it will take legal action against the parents of pupils who are persistently absent.
Councillor Webster continued: “It’s important to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of pupils in Nottingham make a real effort to attend school every day. Our Lord Mayor’s Attendance Awards recognise this each year.
“However, there are still far too many children who are not attending when they should be and there is clearly more work for us to do in partnership with schools and academies to bring this figure down further.
“Make no mistake, we will take action against the parents of any child persistently absent if their school asks us to. Our message is clear: we expect children who are registered with a school in the city to be in lessons.”
Councillor Webster added: “We know that most parents act responsibly to ensure their children are in school when they should be. We also recognise that some youngsters are educated at home. However, the vast majority of Nottingham pupils receive a school education, and it is vital that we tackle those parents who are breaking the law.
“There is a common misconception that a pupil with a 90% attendance record has done well. This actually equates to a day off every two weeks. In the working world, that’s close to a month of absence every year.
“If a child misses 17 days of school, it has been proven to be the difference between getting one higher grade at GCSE.”
Parents can help boost their child’s attendance by:
- Making sure they get to school on time
- Not booking holidays during term-time
- Contacting the school the first day a pupil is off sick
For more information, help and advice on school attendance, see http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/schoolattendance or contact the Education Welfare Service on 0115 876 2965.