The Department of Education confirmed schools and local authorities will be able to issue fines of up to £120 to parents whose children do not attend school “without good reason”. The measures have been taken to ensure children return to school and catch up following months off due the coronavirus outbreak.
Education Secretry Gavin Williamson said: “Unless there is a good reason for absence, then we’d be looking at the fact that we would be imposing fines on families.”
Local councils can issue each parent a fine of £60, which rises to £120 each if it is not paid within 21 days.
If parents do not pay the fine after 28 days they may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school.
This could include a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence up to three months.
It comes amid concerns parents will be reluctant to send their children back to school amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
But in guidance released by the Department of Education to parents, it reads: “It is vital for all children to return to school to minimise as far as possible the longer-term impact of the pandemic on children’s education, wellbeing and wider development.
“Missing out on more time in the classroom risks pupils falling further behind. Those with higher overall absence tend to achieve less well in both primary and secondary school.
“School attendance will therefore be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term.”
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The Government department said schools should put the right measures in place to support parents and pupils anxious about returning.
They said: “Schools should bear in mind the potential concerns of pupils, parents and households who may be reluctant or anxious about returning and put the right support in place to address this.
“This may include pupils who have themselves been shielding previously but have been advised that this is no longer necessary, those living in households where someone is clinically vulnerable, or those concerned about the comparatively increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), including those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds or who have certain conditions such as obesity and diabetes.”
It comes after Mr Williamson issued new advice on schools returning for the new curriculum in September.
He also sought to reaasure parents worried about their children’s return.
He said: “I want to reassure parents and families that we are doing everything we can to make sure schools, nurseries, colleges and other providers are as safe as possible for children and staff, and will continue to work closely with the country’s best scientific and medical experts to ensure that is the case.”
Former shadow minister Richard Burgon raised concerns about all children returning to education when it may not be safe to do so.
Mr Burgon told MPs: “We all want schools to reopen in September but only if it is safe for pupils, teachers and the wider community.
“Just this week the Health Secretary acknowledged that an unusually high rate of coronavirus infections amongst children in Leicester was part of the reason for reimposing restrictions there.”
He added: “School reopening must be safe and led by the science, so can the Secretary of State confirm that the measures that he has announced today will be signed off as safe by the Government’s scientists?”
But Mr Williamson said: “I can absolutely assure (Mr Burgon) that Public Health England have signed off all of this advice.
“We on this side of the House are all committed to opening all schools for all children of all year groups.”