27/02/2012 - Permalink

Council cracks down on poor school attendance

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Shropshire Council has issued a warning to parents who fail to ensure their children attend school that they could face prosecution in the magistrates court. 

School attendance in Shropshire is above the national average – for the 2010/11 academic year, Shropshire primary schoolpupils attendance was 95.3% (compared to 95.2% in 2009/10) and for secondary pupils it was 93.7% (compared to 93.3% in 2009/10). 

That shows the value that parents, schools and the council put upon education.  But where non-attendance becomes a problem and parents and carers fail to do all they can to ensure their children access the education to which they are entitled, the council can take the case to the magistrates court. 

Two recent cases demonstrated that parents or carers can be prosecuted if their children are not attending school as often as they should. 

For example, the parents of a pupil attending a school in the south Shropshire area were fined a total of £980, including court costs, due to poor school attendance.  The pupil attended 76 occasions out of a possible 118, equating to 64% attendance. 

The parents did not respond to efforts by the education welfare officer to meet with them to address the poor attendance.  Truancy Penalty Notices were issued, and as these were not paid within the 42-day limit, the case proceeded to magistrates court. 

Another recent case involved the parents of a child who lives in north Shropshire.  They admitted the offence of non-school attendance for their son and were given a 12-month Community Service Order, as well as being ordered to pay costs of £300. 

Councillor Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for education and skills, said:

“We take incidents of non-attendance very seriously and, as these recent cases show, we will take the matter to court if necessary.  Children deserve the opportunity to learn, and if parents or carers are not doing all they can to ensure they are given that opportunity, then appropriate action needs to be taken. 

“We do of course talk to the school and parents involved before embarking on formal prosecution, but sometimes that is the only route available if no progress has been made.”