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Caerphilly Education South Wales

Nearly 150 Caerphilly parents prosecuted for their children’s low school attendance

Caerphilly County Borough Council offices (Pic: LDRS)

NEARLY 150 parents in Caerphilly have been prosecuted since 2018 for not sending their children to school.

Councils have powers to punish parents of persistent absentees, including taking them to court.

While Caerphilly Council said legal interventions are “a last resort”, a new report shows parents or carers of more than 800 children have faced enforcement action over the last five and a half years.
The council’s education committee is due to meet next week to discuss various strategies for improving pupil attendance.

Caerphilly currently ranks 13th out of Wales’ 22 council areas for pupil absence rates and is above the national average – described by the council as a “positive” result.

At the end of March, overall school attendance in the county borough stood at 90.3%, compared to 89.1% from the same month in 2023.

The report shows attendance is slightly lower, in both primary and secondary schools, among pupils who receive free school meals, however.

The council said school attendance in Caerphilly, “as in all local authorities across Wales… has been negatively affected by the pandemic”.

Efforts to improve attendance is “a priority for all schools” in the county borough, and the council has launched several initiatives including “bespoke support” for each school.

Attendance workshops are held at schools each term, where staff can share best practice, and headteachers also take part in special “attendance seminars”.

But when work to encourage attendance fails, the council pursues legal action against parents and carers whose children continue to miss school.

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So far this current academic year, Caerphilly Council has issued 166 fixed penalty notices and sought prosecution of 13 parents.

Last year, the figures stood at 190 fixed penalty notices and 33 prosecutions of parents, although three of those cases were later dismissed.

The council said it “recognises there are cases where legal intervention is a helpful tool for schools where all other strategies have been explored”.

The report also notes school attendance in recent years was highest in 2018/19, which was also the year when the council carried out the most enforcement action.

In some circumstances, however, the council accepts enforcement is not the best solution, such as when pupils face “severe cases of anxiety or missed diagnosis”.