We are obliged, legally and ethically, to do all we can to encourage high levels of attendance. Primarily, we aim to do this by offering a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment and doing our best to provide additional pastoral support for those children and families who find attending challenging for whatever reason.  We try to make the school day as much fun as possible with a real focus on wellbeing. Most of our children have very good levels of attendance, for which we are very grateful:

57 have 100% attendance for the year to date

283 have attendance at or above the expected minimum of 95%

342 have attendance at or above the current national average of 94%

We also have a small number of children with seriously life-affecting medical conditions who we appreciate make huge, heroic efforts to be in school as much as they can.

When this approach doesn’t work and attendance remains a concern or absence is unauthorised, the local authority will implement more punitive measures. This can involve:

  • the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices for unauthorised absence – please note that no holidays can be authorised. This was made law in 2015. From August, the cost of an FPN will rise to £80 per adult.  We appreciate factors such as cost and are sympathetic to this (school staff face the same issue), but are not allowed to take it into account since this change in the law. There is actually very little we can authorise: illness, medical appointments, the day of a funeral (and limited travelling time, not extended leave), recognised religious observances etc
  • referral to Social Care for persistent low attendance
  • prosecution under Section 444 of the Education Act for persistent or repeated unauthorised absence

For the latter,  there are 2 offences:

1. Section 444(1) Education Act 1996 – If the child is absent without authorisation then the parent is guilty of an offence. This is a strict liability offence i.e. all that needs to be shown is a lack of regular attendance. Sanctions can include a fine of up to £1,000.

2. Section 444(1A) Education Act 1996 – an aggravated offence. If the child is absent without authorisation and the parent knew about the child’s absence and failed to act then the parent is guilty of an offence. Sanctions can include a fine of up to £2,500 and a prison sentence of up to 3 months.

Recently, we have had several cases in which there has been cause to prosecute, resulting in fines of between £1,000 and £2,000 in each case for both parents/carers. The higher end of the fines has come when parents/carers have aggravated the absence by giving false information about their child’s whereabouts – essentially telling us they were ill when they were actually on holiday or reporting a fictitious event such as a funeral abroad.

There are a number of petitions and campaigns online through which protest and comment around the law as it stands can be made. We would recommend that parents/carers who feel strongly about the law make their voice heard through one or more of these. In the meantime, we have to live with the laws we have and school, as part of The State, has to apply them.