Portsmouth and Hampshire education chiefs clamp down on parents of school truants

EDUCATION chiefs have told parents: send your children to school or – if need be – we will take you to court.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 6:00 am

At least six parents with children at Hampshire area schools have already been due at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court over five separate cases.

They were accused of failing to ensure the children ‘attend regularly’.

Two parents from a Hampshire County Council area school in The News area were fined £25 with £82 costs each over their failure to ensure their two children,14 and 13, went to school enough.rosecutor Sarah Ward said that between September 27 2018 and July 18 last year, the youngest child had an attendance rate of 69 per cent.

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The region's schools are taking parents to court over their failure to ensure their children attend school. Photographer: Andrew Bellis

Between October 12, 2018, and July 18 last year the oldest child had 57 unauthorised sessions out of 378 with an attendance rate of 84.9 per cent.

There are two sessions in each school day.

The children’s parents argued from the dock that the figures were inaccurate, claiming a week’s worth of unauthorised absences for both girls were actually periods when the children were in school.

The father also argued that the school had been guilty of ‘not dealing with incidents of bullying’.

Hampshire County Council's executive member for education, Cllr Roz Chadd, has warned parents the Council will prosecute those who fail to ensure their children attend school.

The previous day, two parents from Portsmouth schools were due in court, one over failing to ensure their child ‘attended school regularly’ and the second over a failure to comply with a school attendance order.

It was the latest in a series of cases brought to help boost attendance.

Hampshire County Council’s executive member for education, Councillor Roz Chadd, warned: ‘Sometimes, schools find it necessary to issue a fixed penalty notice to parents of pupils who fail to attend regularly and schools’ use of this is usually only as a last resort.

‘In the event that the penalty notice is not paid, the council will prosecute the parent for failing to ensure the regular attendance of the child at school.’

Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for education, Cllr Suzy Horton, has said the Council will support schools in the court process against the parents of children who are persistent non attenders. Picture: Habibur Rahman

One parent was handed a 12-month community order with 40 hours’ unpaid work. In a separate case another parent was bailed ‘while sentencing options, including custody were considered’.

Portsmouth’s cabinet member for education, Cllr Suzy Horton, said: ‘Schools make the final decision on whether to prosecute parents but the council fully supports headteachers in cases where this is necessary.

‘There are some cases with the families of students who are persistently not attending school for whom stricter measures are needed and in these cases we support the schools in the court process and sanctions imposed.’

The court cases run alongside Portsmouth City Council’s Miss School, Miss Out campaign to tackle poor attendance, particularly in the city’s secondary schools.

The most recently published data taken from 2017/18 showed secondary schools in Portsmouth had an absence rate of 6.6 per cent compared to 5.5 per cent nationally.

And 17.9 per cent of secondary school children are persistently absent, having missed 10 per cent of their schooling, compared to 13.9 per cent nationally.