The Education Welfare Service has a duty on behalf of Middlesbrough Council to ensure that parents/carers ensure their children attend school regularly.
If children don't attend school regularly, and there's no valid reason for such absence, the Education Welfare Service will use the full range of statutory powers, including the issuing of Penalty Notices and court action, to ensure that this happens.
Penalty Notices - a guide for parents
S.23(1) Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 introduced Penalty Notices as an alternative to parents being prosecuted in the Magistrates' Court under the Education Act 1996 in order to address unauthorised absence from school.
A notice issued to parents by the Education Welfare Service on behalf of Middlesbrough Council, where a child/children have unauthorised absences from school. It does not require a parent to attend court.
A parent cannot be prosecuted for failing to ensure their child's regular school attendance during the period of the Penalty Notice provided the penalty is paid on time and in full.
Middlesbrough Council considers regular attendance to be important, and Penalty Notices will usually be issued:
- to a parent whose child is of compulsory school age and has 10 or more unauthorised absences in the current term (6 - 12 week period)
- where a parent takes their child on a period of leave of absence during term time
Why are they being used?
To assist Middlesbrough Council in its drive to raise pupil attendance, ensuring young people achieve their full potential and raise their educational standards.
£60 if paid in full within 21 days
£120 if paid in full after 21 days but within 28 days
Note: If the fine is not fully paid within 28 days and there is no reason to withdraw the notice, Middlesbrough Council will prosecute a parent in the Magistrates' Court for failing to ensure regular school attendance.
A written notification will have been sent to the parent from Middlesbrough Council explaining the penalties for failing to ensure regular school attendance. Where it relates to a period of leave of absence that is not authorised, the school will have informed parents of the policy that is followed.
Details are contained in the Penalty Notice itself. Payment can be made in person by cash, cheque, postal order or debit/credit card via telephone. Cheques and postal orders may be sent by post. The whole amount must be paid by the due date.
On receipt of a warning (written notification) representation can be made to the Education Welfare Service, but there is no statutory right of appeal once a notice has been issued.
Advice and support is available for parents from school staff and the Education Welfare Service in supporting their child's regular school attendance and in exercising their legal responsibility.
School attendance - court procedures - a guide for parents
The Education Act 1996 states that parents must ensure their children receive appropriate full-time education according to their age, ability and aptitude. This usually means ensuring a child registered at school attends regularly and punctually.
Any person who has the care of a child or who has parental responsibility is responsible for ensuring good attendance. Failure to do so can result in a Fixed Penalty Notice being issued or prosecution.
"If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence". under s.444(1) Education Act 1996.
Parents who refuse to register a child at a suitable school without good reason may receive a School Attendance Order from Middlesbrough Council. Failure to comply with the Order can result in prosecution.
Prosecution is a serious step which the Education Welfare Service only undertakes after discussion with the school and any other relevant person.
Evidence for prosecution is supplied by the school in the form of an attendance certificate signed by the head teacher. This must be accepted by the Magistrates as a true record of attendance.
The Education Welfare Officer (EWO) attached to school will also provide evidence for prosecution, including evidence of contact with parents/carers. Parents/carers will have been offered support by the EWO and the opportunity to work with them to improve their child's attendance. Attendance Case Conference/Review meetings will have been held to give parents/carers the opportunity to explain the child's absences.
If you're requested to attend at court you will be sent a summons stating the time, date and place of the Hearing. You should receive copies of the prosecution evidence including statements made by the Education Welfare Officer. You'll also be asked if you intend to plead guilty or not guilty. You're encouraged to seek legal advice prior to the Hearing.
On the day of the Hearing you should arrive on time and report to the Court's reception. If you have any difficulties attending or any other questions regarding the proceedings contact the Education Welfare Service.
If you have pleaded or been found guilty, the Magistrates have the power to impose a fine of up to £1,000 for an offence under S.444(1) Education Act 1996. Costs may also be awarded against you. Fines and costs are collected at a rate linked to your income.
If it is proved that you knew your child was not attending school regularly and that you failed without reasonable justification to ensure regular attendance, you may be found guilty of an offence under S.444(1A). In this case a fine of up to £2,500 may be imposed and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 months.
Magistrates sometimes issue a Conditional Discharge which means that your child's attendance will be monitored. If you fail to ensure your child's attendance during the period of a Conditional Discharge, a further case can be taken against you and you could be fined for the original and current offence.
The Magistrates may also impose a Parenting Order.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Section 8, has provided courts with a further option when considering non-school attendance cases. Magistrates are now able to impose a Parenting Order as well as other disposals. A parenting order would require the parent to attend counselling/guidance sessions for up to 3 months and may also require a parent to comply with a specific requirement for up to 12 months, such as escorting a child to school each day. Breach of the order can result in further prosecution.