PRESSURE BLAMED FOR RISE IN TRUANCY FINES
County’s school chief says teachers put in diffucult position
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.