As a parent it is your responsibility to ensure your children receive a full-time education between the ages of 5 and 16. This need not legally be at a school as educating the children at home is an option, however usually school will be the only realistic way of fulfilling the full-time education requirement due to work commitments, etcetera. Once enrolled at a school it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure their children regularly attend. Failure to do so may eventually lead to prosecution and sometimes even a custodial sentence. There are only two valid reasons for children missing school; illness and if the absence was pre-arranged. Any other reason will amount to truancy.
If a child has been missing school then it is usual for the school to contact the parents informing them of their child’s absence. If the truancy persists then the next step will usually be a visit from a welfare officer discussing why the child is missing school. Failure to comply may then lead to prosecution of the parents, although usually they will issue fines before taking this drastic step. If the situation becomes so bad that a prosecution is made then punishment can be severe – fines of around 2,500, community service orders or exceptionally even a custodial sentence!
If a child is not registered with a school and so not attending at all, and the child is not receiving an adequate education at home then the local authority may issue a School Attendance Order (SAO) although the matter will first be discussed and attempted to be resolved with the child’s parents. If no agreement is reached an order can be placed to with the parents have 15 days to comply with, failure to do so could lead to prosecution or an Education Supervision Order (ESO) which provides someone to facilitate the child getting back into education.
As evidenced the level of responsibility for ensuring your child receives an education is significant. Whilst the repercussions can seem harsh, particularly if you are making every effort to get your child to school, they exist and as a parent you must do everything possible to ensure you comply. For example if there are days your child will not be able to attend school, make sure you pre-arrange them and have them agreed before making plans. Pre-determine what your child’s school will or won’t accept; booking holidays during term time is now often not considered a legitimate reason for absence. Although the sanctions can seem unfair and disproportionate, if you really are making every possible effort to comply then it is unlikely the repercussions will be as serious as if you make less effort than you should. Remember, the education is beneficial!