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Nearly 100 Flintshire parents fined over child’s school absence

NEARLY 100 parents have been fined in Flintshire over their child’s absence from school, with one being forced to pay as much as £800.

It follows concerns that parents’ attitudes towards ensuring their children attend school have changed following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Attendance levels at schools in Flintshire stood at 93.2 per cent for primary schools and 91.6 for secondary schools during the 2019/20 school year.

However, this dropped to 92.1 and 89 per cent respectively in 2022/23, with a report to councillors claiming some parents see school attendance as less important than they did before.

Meanwhile, in the same period, unauthorised absence levels have risen from 0.85 per cent in primary schools to 0.94 and from 1.87 per cent in secondary schools to 3.05.

Flintshire Council is now proactively taking action against persistent unauthorised absences, with 99 fixed penalty notices issued during the 2022/23 school year.

There were also eight cases where parents were taken to court for failing to pay, with further fines of £660 issued in each of those instances.

Jeanette Rock, the local authority’s senior manager for inclusion and progression, said a fine of £800 had also been issued in another case.

Discussing parental attitudes at a meeting of the council’s education, youth and culture scrutiny committee on Thursday (May 24, 2024), she said: “There’s very much a change there because of what happened during the pandemic and parents don’t always see the importance of attendance at school.

“They may have had other children that have gone through the system, and they felt they’ve been fairly successful with not having full attendance at school.

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“But it is something that we are reinforcing and trying to be very proactive with.”

She later said: “At the heart of this is the right of children to be in schools and access education.

“Some parents have received quite significant fines of £600 and we also had one for £800.

“It’s important to get the message out there about non-compliance. You have a legal duty as parents for your children to be in education and we are going to use the tools that are available to us to promote and secure that.”

Under the Education Act 1996, parents are required to ensure their children receive an efficient full-time education.

The law states that parents whose children are absent from school without good reason are committing an offence.

Local authorities have the power to issue fixed penalty notices where pupils have 20 unauthorised absences.

The current levels of fines in Flintshire stands at £60 if paid within 28 days or £120 within 42 days, with court action following for those who do not settle within that period.

Commenting on overall attendance levels, Ms Rock said: “Our attendance levels are not where they were pre-pandemic but hopefully, you’ll take some comfort in that the numbers are starting to increase slowly.

“There’s been a slight drop in primary schools, but we now have some national data which we can benchmark ourselves against.

“We should take some comfort that our primary school attendance is the fifth highest level in Wales.

“Also, whilst our secondary attendance is below 90 per cent, it is the third highest in Wales.

“There’s been a lot of work from schools and central services to secure an improvement in those levels of engagement.”