Parents are fined £10k for truants

Parents of truanting pupils in Wigan were fined a staggering £10,000 by education chiefs last year, new figures today reveal.

Tuesday, 29th March 2016, 12:27 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd April 2016, 8:00 am
A school pupil plays truant. Picture posed by model

They also show town hall bosses in the borough are taking an increasingly hard line against unauthorised absences during term time.

An Evening Post investigation has revealed the number of Wigan parents being fined for taking their children out of school during term time has increased five-fold.

Wigan schools handed out 166 fines in 2014-15 compared to just 33 in the previous period.

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And our research also shows Hindley Green Community Primary has the highest number of parents receiving official warnings for taking their children out of school during term time.

Fifty three warnings were issued during the 2014-15 school year. And that figure is likely to rise even further this year, with data showing 29 censures sent out from the Thomas Street school between the start of term and October alone.

Byrchall High and St Edmond Arrowsmith were the secondary schools with the highest number of warnings, with 47 and 41 each.

It is believed the staggering increase has been fuelled in part by parents taking their children out of school to take advantage of cheaper term-time holidays.

With fines starting at £60 many calculate they will be better off stumping up the cash in order to secure the vastly lower fares on offer outside of the official holidays.

The figures, obtained by the Evening Post via a Freedom of Information request, show the enormous scale of truancy in the borough.

A council spokesman said: “Research shows the impact attendance has on attainment levels, which is why Wigan Council and local schools are working hard to ensure high attendance levels at both primary and secondary schools.

“We issue warnings for any unauthorised absences which include the U code (late after the register closes) if they have 10 sessions in a half a term.

“If they have any further absences which are not authorised by the school during the following 15 school days regardless of whether it is a U or full day absence they will automatically receive a £60 fine.

“The most recent school absence figures have Wigan Borough exceeding both regional and national averages which is reflected in our high attainment level.

“We believe this is due to the successful relationships between schools, parents and our Gateway Service: the council’s early intervention and prevention service for those up to the age of 19.”

Parents given EPNs are expected to pay £60, which rises to £120 if the initial fine is not settled. The penalties are given out when a child has 10 unauthorised sessions of absence in a set period of time and then is also out of the classroom without adequate explanation during a three-week warning period.

If the bigger fine is still not paid parents are then taken to court for failing to ensure their offspring’s regular attendance at school.

Max Atkins, secretary of Wigan NUT, said: “It is not surprising that parents continue to take their children out of school in term-time for a much-needed holiday when we have had five years of pay freezes or pay rises below inflation.

“Cash-strapped parents are clearly still making huge savings by going on holiday in school time, even with fines of up to £120. Rather than picking on parents, this government needs to stop companies bumping up prices in the holidays, and give hard-working families proper pay rises so they do not have to do this.

“Regarding truancy, the fault once again lies with this government Forcing all pupils to do a more academically-focused curriculum at the expense of the arts, and the pressure on teachers to get all pupils to constantly jump through hoops that get smaller and more frequent, is enough to turn anyone off school.

“Education needs to be broad and balanced, the pace needs to be different for each pupil, and exams should be done in modules. This way, school will be the enjoyable experience it should be and not this relentless charge to reach the top of a flawed international league table that is wrecking many pupils’ lives.”