Crackdown on parents taking pupils on term-time holidays
- Credit: Archant
The number of parents being prosecuted for failing to ensure their children attend school has jumped almost 50 per cent in the last year.
Fifty-four cases have been brought against parents since the academic year started in September, compared with 28 in the previous year.
The worst offenders are those with children at Sydney Russell School, where 46 cases have been taken to court since 2009, including nine this year alone.
At Dagenham Park, which has the second-highest number of prosecutions, 13 parents have been taken to court so far this year, with 31 prosecuted in the past five years.
The latest statistics also show that 358 fixed fines were issued to parents for pupil truancy in the 2012-13 school year - almost two for every school day.
Some parents have even been summoned to court four times and ended up with suspended sentences and electronic tags as a result of their actions.
But Greg Vaughan, manager of the council’s “children missing from education” team, believes prosecutions generally deter parents from allowing their children to persistently truant - or, as is often the case, taking them on holiday.
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“With court cases we take, we don’t get many repeat offenders, which I think shows it does bring about the required result,” he told the Post.
“In most cases we do see attendence improve because if it hadn’t the parents would have gone to prison.”
Individual schools are able to decide whether to issue penalties, with half the borough’s secondaries opting to take this action to help manage attendance levels.
Last year, a parent was fined more than £700 after her child was absent from school for more than half the year.
The child only attended school 54 times over the 144 days of the school term.
Greg would like the government to work with airline and holiday companies to try and reduce the cost of going away during the school holidays to remove the drive to skip school as a money-saving option.
“Parents are currently more inclined to take their children on holiday because they find it cheaper,” he said. “They are looking at saving a huge amount of money and some of them cannot afford it otherwise.
“It is not just about fining parents – it is about working with airline companies and others to see what can be done.”
Greg said the importance of ensuring children get a consistent education was demonstrated by Department of Education studies proving the link between attendance and attainment.
“What they’ve shown is that children who attend school regularly have better outcomes when it comes to exams and children with poor attendance don’t do as well,” he said. “There’s a clear distinction that children who go to school will learn more and therefore do better, which I think is common sense.
“And also, of course, it’s the law.”