City of York Council today (6 September ) prosecuted the mother of a child, aged 9, who failed to attend school regularly.
The case had been adjourned from 9 August when the mother had failed to attend magistrate’s court. She also failed to attend court today, as a result the case was heard in her absence.
The Magistrates Court heard that the child, who is a pupil at a primary school in the west of the City, had failed to attend on 40 out of a possible 136 occasions between December 2011 and March 2012. She had an absence rate of over 29% which compares to the city average in primary schools of less than 5%.
The government now regards any child who is absent for 15% or more of the time as a Persistent Absentee.
The school had invited the parents to meet with them to discuss the concerns regarding the child’s attendance, they had failed to provide any legitimate reasons for much of the absences and consequently the head teacher had made the decision to not authorise the absences, which prompted action from the authority. The Local Authority had also invited the parents to meet with them so they could inform them of the possible consequences should their daughter’s attendance not improve. The school and the Local Authority had also written to the parents on a number of occasions to explain their concerns and the possibility of legal action being taken if the child did not attend school regularly.
The mother was fined £110 plus £50 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. The father, who had attended the previous hearing, had pleaded guilty. The magistrates fined the father £70 plus £15 victim surcharge with £50 cost awarded to the council.
Mark Smith, Schools Adviser: Attendance and Integrated Working said that:
The council only uses the courts as a last resort where attempts to encourage good attendance have failed, but our priority is to protect the interests of the children who are being denied the education to which they are entitled. Where parents failed to ensure their child was educated they not only risk prosecution but should also bear in mind the impact this has upon their child’s chances of achieving in education.
This is thankfully a rare case, as attendance in our schools is excellent. However this case shows that where appropriate we will consider prosecution as an option.