An increasing number of fines are being dished out to parents in the Bradford district as schools get tough on truancy.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that a soaring number of parents are being fined hundreds of pounds for taking children out of class without permission.
The number of penalty notices issued by the district’s state schools has rocketed to 692 in the first six months of this academic year, which started in September 2013.
And that is already 189 more than for the whole of the previous year, when 503 such penalties were sent to errant parents. Each penalty notice can carry as much as a £450 fine as punishment for a child’s unsanctioned absence.
Bradford Council’s education chief said there had been some issues with parents who had come to Bradford from Eastern Europe, where the statutory age at which children must start school is higher.
Coun Ralph Berry, the Council’s executive member for children and young people’s services, said: “The penalty notice has been a tool at schools’ disposal for a few years to tackle parentally-condoned absence and it is purely their decision to use it.
“And there is a mood for more interventions regarding attendance.”
Mr Berry said one aspect considered by schools was the level of importance placed on attendance figures by Government Ofsted inspectors.
“If attendance levels dip too low, they can find themselves in for a tough time when it comes to Ofsted reports,” Coun Berry said.
He highlighted a new problem area for schools which was prompted by a clash of educational cultures. “There have been issues with East European arrivals because in Slovakia, for example, the statutory start of school age is seven whereas here it’s five.
“In fact the British Isles is the only part of Europe where that’s true. Elsewhere provision is made with kindergartens etc, but sit-down education only becomes statutory for seven-year-olds.”
“But basically, time missed in class means lower results and here in Bradford the name of the game is getting those results up,” Coun Berry said.
Conservative education spokesman on Bradford Council, Roger L’Amie, welcomed the new get-tough approach by headteachers and said he was aware of a growing trend to clamp down on truancy.
“Some schools are definitely cracking down on absenteeism with a robust approach, which is a good thing.Basically, if you ‘ain’t at school – you ‘ain’t getting educated,” he said.
“And I understand groups of schools may have decided to bear down more heavily on irresponsible parents who take their children out of class for no good reason.”