Wigan parent hits out in row over penalties for children not attending school

A Wigan primary school told parents in the newsletter that non-attendance could result in fines and prosecution.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 9:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 3:58 pm

However, the mum labelled the threats “inhumane” and “cruel”, given some parents still had fears about the safety of pupils in class due to Covid-19.

She also said pupils in England had far less stringent measures in place to protect them than their peers living elsewhere.

However, Wigan Council has defended schools taking this line, saying it is “essential” that youngsters are in the classroom with only a few exceptions.

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Pupils have now returned to in-person teaching

Pupils across the country returned to in-person lessons on Monday after they were only open for the sons and daughters of key workers during the national lockdown.

The newslettter pointed out that parents and carers have a duty to ensure children attend school and issued a reminder that persistent unauthorised absence could result in a penalty notice and ultimately in a court appearance.

The school also said Wigan Council will use these powers as an early deterrent to prevent long-term unauthorised absence developing.

But the parent condemned the timing of the reminder, saying it felt aimed at those who are not convinced sufficient safety measures have been put in place.

She said: “This is completely inappropriate in the midst of a deadly pandemic. It just seems inhumane and cruel. It’s horrible, it’s just too much, and friends of mine have said it’s the wrong approach.

“The school knows the seriousness of Covid. Children transmit Covid, they get Covid and they become seriously ill from it.”

The mum said the rules introduced in America for schools are far stricter and also pointed out the Welsh Government has said it will not be fining parents who keep their children off.

Wigan Council said it is Government guidance and part of the roadmap for coming out of lockdown that school attendance is mandatory.

It also defended its involvement in taking action should children not head into lessons unless they are on a list of exemptions.

Catherine Pealing, assistant director of education, said: “Our schools have worked really hard to ensure all pupils can return to school as safely as possible.

“As an additional measure to support the safety controls in schools, the Government have now made lateral flow device tests available for all households.

“Whilst we appreciate that some parents and children may still have some anxieties about returning to their school, in line with national guidance, all children are required to return to school from March 8, 2021.

“Attendance will therefore be mandatory and a remote education offer will no longer be available unless the child is shielding on medical advice or are isolating due to having a positive test or being identified through contact tracing.”

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