PRES­SURE BLAMED FOR RISE IN TRUANCY FINES

County’s school chief says teach­ers put in dif­fu­cult po­si­tion

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by JAS­MINE RAPSON Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

A COUN­CIL chief has blamed Of­sted for the ris­ing num­ber of truancy fines dished out to Bucks par­ents.

Head teach­ers are forced to be strict with par­ents whose chil­dren miss school dur­ing term due to the ed­u­ca­tion watchdog’s rig­or­ous as­sess­ments, ac­cord­ing to cabi­net mem­ber for ed­u­ca­tion at Bucks County Coun­cil (BCC), Mike Ap­p­le­yard.

Last week it was re­ported that the num­ber of fines handed out to Buck-in­gh­mashire par­ents for fail­ing to send their chil­dren to school has al­most dou­bled since 2014.

Coun­cil­lor Ap­p­le­yard said there are “in­creas­ing pres­sures” on teach­ers, how­ever it is not clear why the num­ber has in­creased so dra­mat­i­cally.

He added that head­teach­ers are put in a “dif­fi­cult” po­si­tion by Of­sted as schools are pe­nalised if the num­ber of unau­tho­rised ab­sences are high.

He said: “The fig­ures are go­ing up and the re­al­ity is head teach­ers are be­ing put in a re­ally dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion by Of­sted.

“In­spec­tors look at ab­sences and they have neg­a­tive marks if fig­ures are high.

“There are two rea­sons for penal­ties – tak­ing kids out of the coun­try and at­tend­ing school on an ir­reg­u­lar ba­sis.

“There are all these pres­sures but we don’t know what the rea­son is. All I would say is both the Gov­ern­ment and the lo­cal au­thor­ity will stick with be­ing rig­or­ous with at­tend­ing school.”

Fig­ures re­vealed fol­low­ing a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest show BCC is­sued 765 penal­ties to par­ents for their chil­dren’s ab­sences in 2014/15, com­pared with 1,493 in 2016/17.

Par­ents are only handed a penalty notice if their child is ab­sent for more than five days at a time due to truancy or term-time hol­i­days.

Cllr Ap­p­le­yard said BCC plans to carry out sur­veys and talk to head teach­ers in a bid to es­tab­lish why more chil­dren are miss­ing school, how­ever it won’t be “top pri­or­ity”.

He added: “I have looked at the num­bers and I am not happy. We have now got to do some polling and look at the num­bers and see what we come up with.

“Our main pri­or­ity at the mo­ment is to get the per­for­mance of chil­dren from poorer back­grounds, to get their per­for­mance up.”

How­ever a spokesman for Of­sted said while the num­ber of unau­tho­rised ab­sences are con­sid­ered dur­ing an in­spec­tion, it would not be the de­cid­ing fac­tor as to which rat­ing the school re­ceives.

The spokesman said: “Head teach­ers and the Lo­cal Au­thor­ity are re­spon­si­ble for the penal­ties is­sued to par­ents for unau­tho­rised ab­sences from schools.

“Dur­ing an in­spec­tion, we will look at the lev­els of unau­tho­rised ab­sences and may con­sider the ef­fec­tive­ness of school poli­cies if lev­els are high.

“Lev­els of ab­sence is one is­sue con­sid­ered on in­spec­tion and would never be the sole rea­son a school re­ceives a cer­tain judge­ment.”

New fig­ures re­leased by the Gov­ern­ment also re- vealed that par­ents in Buck­ing­hamshire were fined more than 1,300 times for unau­tho­rised term-time hol­i­days last year.

In to­tal 1,347 penalty no­tices were is­sued to par­ents in Bucks in 2016/17 for unau­tho­rised fam­ily hol­i­day ab­sence, 90.9% of all penalty no­tices is­sued by the lo­cal au­thor­ity last year.

Over­all 1,482 penalty no­tices were is­sued in Bucks in 2016/17, a rise of 36.5% from 2015/16, and the high­est num­ber in six years, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion. The area is­sued 2.1 penalty no­tices per 100 chil­dren in 2016/17.

Over­all, par­ents paid £54,000 in fines, with 909 no­tices paid within 28 days. The fine is £60 if paid within 21 days, be­fore go­ing up to £120 if paid within 22 to 28 days.

In Bucks, 535 penalty no­tices were with­drawn in 2016/17, and there were no pros­e­cu­tions for non-pay­ment of penalty no­tices, the same as in 2015/16.

PHOTO: PA

PHOTO: PA

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