Absenteeism, Persistent Absenteeism and the issue of fines & Court Orders.

Our Federation maintains a strong stance on reducing absenteeism across all our schools, we use a number of means to try to improve our attendance levels, these include:

  • Attendance letters to keep parents/carers up to date with their child’s attendance.
  • Attendance panel meetings – a supportive process to enable us to identify any barriers to attendance.
  • Fast track process – promotes early intervention by school, the LA and parents in cases of persistent absence.

Parents/carers have raised queries around letters informing them that they are required to attend a meeting to discuss possible actions, including the issuing of fines or court orders.

For clarity, it is not the school’s policy but that of the Department for Education, to issue fines (also known as Fixed Penalty Notices), which is necessary in some cases.

It is the Department for Education / Ofsted that dictate attendance below 95% is poor attendance and that below 90% is “persistent absenteeism”. The reasons for this is that good attendance is vital for the success of pupils and their wellbeing.  Our own schools’ data, as well as that issued nationally, makes clear that poor attendance results in poorer outcomes for children.

The Law

Children must attend school under the Education Act 1989 (revised).  Poor attendance at school, can result in one or more of the following.

  • A parenting order
  • And education supervision order.
  • School attendance order?
  • A fine (sometimes known as a fixed penalty notice).

Parents should understand that poor attendance impacts on outcomes for children individually and the schools’ as a whole.

Across the Federation we will actively seek to enforce the necessary legal actions to address pupils’ absence, where improvements are not seen and/or parents/carers do not engage with or recognise the legitimate concern.

They are only children; does it really matter?

Yes! The fact is that children who attend school for less than 95% of the time underperform significantly and have ominously reduced lifetime opportunities. It is not good enough to send your child to a good school or be graded a “Good school”, if absenteeism impacts on achievement.  Schools with poor attendance and diminished outcomes do not remain “Good”.

But my child has been ill, and I have told you this.

Absence is absence, and impacts on the child’s learning and well-being, regardless of the reason. This is clear in the actions taken under national policy. Whilst we respect those parents/carers, who state that their child’s absence has been a result of specific unavoidable illness, this does not negate the fact that their child has been impacted by it, or that the policy applies to all.  A child, who is absent due to intermittent illness, has missed the same amount of time as a child who has been absent because of a parent/carers failure to bring them to school for unauthorised reasons.

If a parent/carer is subject to a fine, this can be appealed against on medical grounds, but it should be noted that the absence is not ignored owing to circumstance and may not be seen as a “good reason” in court without specific, long-term, medical support and evidence.

To be clear, under policy, and in reality, absence through illness has the same impact as absence for any other reason and as such is included in your child’s absence figures. This is a national requirement.

So, are you saying you want me to bring my child into school when they are ill?

No, but we do ask parents/carers to consider carefully if absence is really necessary. We are not medical practitioners and cannot make decisions on behalf of Health professionals, or indeed parents/carers. The choice is yours. Further information about this is available on our website: Is my child too ill for school? – Caister Primary Federation

My child always attend school, yet you say that there are “unauthorised absences”, how can this be?

If your child arrives late, beyond the close of register, the late mark is converted to an unauthorised absence. Again, this is a national requirement, not the schools’. This is done because too much time in school has been missed. Arrive late. and children may be considered absent; arrive persistently late, and it is easy to fall below the expectation.

I cannot afford a fine, how will I pay the school?

Firstly, fines are not issued by, or paid to, the school, despite what you may have read on social media or in popular press. The courts issue fines and the revenue is taken by them. If you cannot pay a fine, this is a matter for the court and is dealt with in line with any other unpaid debt to the Crown. The schools have no say in this.

I will not pay the fine, what can they do to me?

Simply put, the fine increase up to £2,500. If you continue not to pay, you can get up to a 3-month prison sentence.

I did not realise this, and I have received a letter regarding my child’s absence. What can I do?

Our schools in Caister Primary Federation are here to help you when and where we can.

  • The first step is to attend the meeting and work with school. This will be your chance to seek support if there are any underlying reasons for the absences. Whilst we cannot act on your behalf, we can support we can point you in the right direction and look to see if there is anything we can do to help.
  • Recognise that there is an issue and do all you can to reverse absence trends. This may be easier said than done, but it cannot be ignored for your child’s sake. It is never too late.
  • Act promptly if you receive notices, attendance, letters, and public or court notices. They will not go away.

Please remember it is the duty of our Head of School to address poor attendance and the duty of my Governing Board to hold them accountable for it.  The vast majority of parents/carers at Caister Primary Federation ensure their children attend in line with the expectation and we are grateful for this.

 We cannot, however, ignore that attendance in our schools for too many children is below that expected. It is a stark and frightening fact that whilst we are driving up standards across the Federation, many are missing out and suffering as a result. This has a negative impact on the children and the schools.

We have always had a firm stance on attendance matters and will continue to do so, and I know that the wider community support this. Your actions are appreciated.