At Bodmin Magistrates Court on 12 October 2017, the parents of a child in Bodmin were found guilty of ‘knowingly failing to cause their child to attend School’.
The Court heard that their child did not attend school for 155 out of a possible 300 school sessions between September 2016 and May 2017 – an attendance figure of approximately 48% compared to the national average attendance figure of 96%.
Knowingly failing to cause a child to attend School’ is an offence under S.444(1A) of the Education Act 1996 .
In making their decision, the Magistrates said that there were no medical emergencies or reasons for their child’s absence, and that there was no unavoidable cause or reasonable justification for their child’s failure to attend school.
They further said that they expected more to be done by the parents and found both of them guilty of the offence.
One parent was fined £500, a victim surcharge of £50 and a contribution to the Council’s costs of £770.
The other parent was fined £1,250, a victim surcharge of £125 and a contribution to the Council’s costs of £770.
This means that the parents have to pay a total of £3,465 between them.
The Education Welfare Service works closely with schools, parents and pupils to try to sort out attendance issues. This may involve arranging home and school visits to discuss the situation. They will try to find out the reasons why the child(ren) is not attending school and take steps to try and get them back into school. This includes offering support or signposting to other agencies.
One of the Cornwall Council Cabinet priorities is to increase the aspirations of young people and part of this is working to ensure that every child has the opportunity to achieve their full potential at school. To do that, it is important that children go to school and, as this case demonstrates, parents and carers have a legal duty to ensure that their children attend regularly.
Prosecution is a last resort when everything else has failed.