Almost 130 parents have been prosecuted in Bradford for allowing their children to skip school with nearly a quarter of them living in the BD5 postcode area, latest figures show.
A total of 127 prosecutions and 162 penalty notices were issued in 2010 and 2011, Bradford Council has revealed, with parents and guardians in Bankfoot, Little Horton and West Bowling, which make up BD5, accounting for 28 prosecutions and 41 penalty notices.
The BD4 area, which includes Bierley, East Bowling, Laisterdyke, Tong, Holme Wood and Tyersal, saw the second highest number of penalty notices issued – 36 – while BD6, which covers Buttershaw and Wibsey, accounted for the second largest share of prosecutions, 20.
Fines issued by magistrates during the period ranged from £30 to £525 with £350 the standard fine for prolonged absences and £175 the standard for short periods of absence.
No parents were sent to prison as a result of being prosecuted but other punishments imposed included community orders under supervision of the Probation Service, unpaid work, attendance at parenting courses and the Together Women Programme and absolute and conditional discharges.
Councillor Glen Miller, leader of the Council’s Conservative Group, who asked for the figures from Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, at a full Council meeting earlier this month, said he was keen to identify why some schools in the district were making more progress than others.
He said: “We see excellent schools out there and the portfolio holder is very quick to attach his name to schools who get fantastic Ofsted reports but we still have across the district failing schools and poor attendance. I was trying to find out how many because sometimes it’s not the fault of the children. Concerns have been raised with me about poor attendance.”
Responding to the figures, Coun Berry said: “Generally school attendance issues have been improving. There’s far more action taking place at school level. We need to use the full range of options in this area.
“I do know schools are trying to get involved early on rather than follow the enforcement route. Enforcement needs to be taken only when other measures haven’t been effective. If a schools doesn’t meet its benchmark attendance then it will fail its Ofsted inspection. Anything we can do to raise the profile of ensuring school attendance is necessary. It’s the one opportunity children have to get a good education and we shouldn’t forget that.”
Michael Latham, head teacher at Newby Primary School in Ryan Street, West Bowling, said he believed parents of children at primary schools in BD5 were seldom prosecuted with attendance levels generally high. He said: “As a rule, primary schools do not issue penalty notices or prosecute parents for their children’s non-attendance although this is an option in extreme cases. In BD5, the schools have excellent working relationships with the community and non-attendance is picked up early and acted on.
“It is often a case of parents wanting their children to come to school but having to deal with short-term family difficulties.”