School truancy is unfairly criminalising families

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The crackdown on school term time absence is seriously hurting parents and pupils across England, according to recent figures, which show a rise in the number of parents being taken to court in England for school truancy.

Since 2013 the rules on term time holidays have been tightened, contributing to the major crackdown on pupil absence.

The number of parents being taken to court for the child’s truancy has risen by a quarter last year, with thousands more facing legal action or fines.

Craig Langman, Founder of Parents Want a Say, said: “We're calling on the Education Select Committee to undertake a proper inquiry into the evidence base and assess the damaging impact of the policy on families across England.

“Families need to stop being unfairly criminalised for taking the children out of school, they have a right to a family life.

"Due to the ban on term time holidays this right is being severely compromised and it is hurting families across the country. We are not saying that parents should be able to take children out of school whenever they want – instead we want the rules to revert back to how they were before, where the head teacher could decide.”

The figures from the freedom of request show just how damaging the crackdown in term time holidays has been on parents and their children. For instance, in 2014:

• 16,430 parents were prosecuted for failing to ensure their children went to school (a 25% increased from 2013)

• 12,479 parents were found guilty of truancy offences (a 22% increased from 2013)

• 9,214 fines, averaging £172, have been issued by courts (a 30% increased from 2013)

• 18 jail sentences have been issued to parents (compared to 7 in 2013)

Prior to 1st Sept 2013, head teachers had the discretion to allow up to 10 days authorised absence from school. Now, parents may face a fine of £60 per pupil, per parent, if their child has an unauthorised absence. That rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Parents who refuse to pay can face court action and, if prosecuted, a fine of up to £2,500 with a possible jail sentence of up to three months.

Every Child Journal
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