Is Fining Parents the Answer to Schools Absence?

Posted on 05 June 2018 in attendance

Schools absence is a big issue.  In 2017, it was revealed that the overall pupil absence rate in the UK was 4.5%.  One in ten of these pupils were classed as ‘persistently absent’, with students citing anxiety and depression amongst the reasons why they skip lessons.  Whilst it could be said that the child’s education suffers the biggest blow from lack of attendance, it is parents that must ultimately pay the price for their absenteeism, but is fining them the best solution to getting children back into school?

A recent review commissioned by the Welsh Government, showed that fining parents for taking children out of school during term time had no effect on overall absence rates in Wales.  In fact, the number of unauthorised absences actually increased after the fixed penalty notices were introduced in 2013, prompting reviewers to recommended changes to the current system.  Ministers in Wales are currently advising headteachers to use their discretion to allow parents to take children out of school during term time and to penalise only those who do so without permission.

How do the rules differ throughout the UK?:

  • In England, headteachers can allow term-time breaks during exceptional circumstances, with parents being taken to court if they break the rules.
  • In Scotland, the focus is on getting parents to explain their child’s absence, with court the ultimate resort if no valid excuse can be given.
  • In Northern Ireland, no fines are issued, but children’s attendance is monitored.

 

Are school absence fines too low?

When it comes to unauthorised absence, term time holidays are one of the biggest drivers for time spent away from school, and this type of absence is on the rise.

However, it seems many parents are prepared to pay a £60 fine rather than lose out on the hundreds of pounds they could potentially save by holidaying outside of the main academic breaks, suggesting that perhaps the current penalties are not harsh enough to encourage a change in behaviour?

We have even read about travel agents paying parents’ fines as part of a holiday deal, or parents ignoring fines as they believe it will never get as far as the courts.  Attendance, it seems, just doesn’t have the top billing it deserves.

Let’s look at the facts…

Pupils who are taken out of school, even for short breaks, are less likely to achieve good grades in English, Maths and Science.

Statistics from the Department for Education show that:

  • Of pupils who miss more than 50% of school, only 3% manage to achieve five A* to Cs, including English and maths
  • Of pupils who miss between 10% and 20% of school, only 35% manage to achieve five A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths

These figures confirm that attendance matters and can have a lasting effect on a child’s life chances.  So, what can your school do to help minimise the problem of truancy?

Reducing school absenteeism

When fines are proven to not be effective in deterring term time holidays and other instances of absence, there are other ways that schools can encourage pupil attendance. For example, many schools find it helpful to restrict school trips and certain extracurricular activities to students with 100% or very high attendance.  Others will find that having a better system for monitoring absence and tracking down parents helps to increase attendance, and this is where Contact Group can help.

Truancy Call

Truancy Call is an absence and late messaging system that reduces the administrative time needed to chase pupil absence.  By sending automated calls and messages and delivering these repeatedly until a response is achieved, your school can save time in manually calling and tracking down parents to find out why a pupil is absent from school.  As responses can be gained out of school hours (which they often are), the system goes above and beyond what the school office can achieve during the working day.

Please click here to request a demo or find out more about Truancy Call. Alternatively, please call our friendly team on 03333 131415 to see how we can help your school.