We have noticed a recent increase of prosecutions of parents in the local area for failing to ensure their children’s attendance at school. We’ve prepared a short guide to the common offences so people know what to expect.
There are three main offences which parents can find themselves in Court for:
1. Non-attendance of a child of compulsory school age who is registered at a school (s. 444 (1) offence);
2. Non-attendance as above where the parent knows of the non-attendance and does not cause the child to attend (s. 444(1A) offence); and
3. Failure to comply with a school attendance order (s. 443(1) offence).
Non-attendance (s. 444(1))
Four factors must be proven by the Prosecution for a conviction:
• Child is of compulsory school age (5 – 16);
• Registered pupil at a school;
• Fails to attend regularly; and
• The person prosecuted is the parent of/has parental responsibility for the child.
It is a defence if the child was ill, the school gave permission, for a recognised religious holiday, there was some other unavoidable cause or the school is not within walking distance of the child’s home and appropriate transport is unavailable or has not been provided by the LEA.
The Courts have said any “unavoidable cause” must relate to the child and not the parent and be akin to an emergency. Difficulties in getting a child to school because of behavioural or psychological problems or parental concern about bullying will not be considered and unavoidable cause. They would be considered when passing sentence and reduce the seriousness of any penalty.
If the above is proven the parent will be guilty of the offence and liable to a fine up to £1000.
Knowing non-attendance (s. 444(1A))
For a conviction the above four factors must be proven plus the parent’s knowledge of the failure to attend.
The above defences also apply.
This offence can be punished with a £2500 fine and 3 months imprisonment.
Failure to comply with school attendance order (s. 4443(1))
This offence is committed where a parent has been served with a School Attendance Order and does not comply with the requirements.
It is a defence to show that the child is receiving suitable education at a place other than the school.
This offence is punishable with a £1000 fine.
This guide is no substitute for taking proper legal advice and we advise anyone who has received a summons to contact a solicitor sooner rather than later.
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