Recently we’ve been reading stories all too often about how parents are being taken to court and fined for failing to ensure their children attend school.
Emotions have run high and there have been online petitions to try and stop Local Authority’s preventing pupils having time off for holiday, family celebrations or other special circumstances.
Failing to attend school is a criminal offence and there’s no doubt about this. Non attendance was made a criminal offence to protect children who were truanting, as a way of focusing the parents in getting their children to school, but have we gone too far?
No doubt there are certain professionals who would never get holidays if they were limited to the school holidays. For instance, some of the public sector where the need for constant cover is high.
Maybe it is time for there to be some form of common sense used as to whether or not a pupil who is a star pupil for instance, would suffer from just one day out to attend a memorial service against a pupil perhaps whose level of attendance has dropped well below 80 per cent. Perhaps they should be those who are targeted.
If there is a low level of attendance what else can the Local Authority do? When looking at persistent failure to attend, absconding or truanting the Local Authority might consider using their powers to obtain a care order or a supervision order on the basis that the child is out of parental control or it might consider exercising its power to make what is called an education supervision order. This is where the local education authority apply to a court to take a child under the supervision of that local education authority to try and assist in providing education, and the parent in getting the child to school.
To obtain such an order the Court has to be satisfied that the child concerned is of compulsory school age and is not being properly educated. Of course proper education can include being registered for home schooling and receiving adequate education under this provision.
The education supervision order is a little known order within the body of the Children Act 1989 and yet it can be a useful tool in helping families to try and ensure that education is available.
In more extreme cases where parents are taken to Court for their children failing to attend would it not be better to try this halfway house first?