Number of parents fined doubles as 1,800 pupils miss school each day in Sunderland

Around 1,800 pupils were missing from Sunderland’s schools every day last year, according to new figures.

By Sue Kirby
Wednesday, 10 April, 2019, 06:00
Pupils are missing lessons.

The data also shows that the number of fines handed to parents for their children’s poor school attendance nearly doubled compared to the previous year.

The Department for Education statistics show Sunderland’s state secondary school pupils missed 6.2% of their lesson time in the 2017-18 academic year.

Of those absences, more than 35% were unauthorised, including truancy or for family holidays for which permission had not been granted.

And 16% of the 14,865 pupils enrolled in secondary schools were classed as persistently absent, meaning they missed 10% of their total learning time.

Wearside’s primary school pupils missed 4.4% of their lesson time on average, with nearly a third of absences unauthorised. Among primary pupils, 9% were persistent absentees.

Absence rates increased in secondary schools compared to 2016-17, when 5.7% of sessions were missed, but remained the same at 4.3% in primary schools.

In total, it means around 1,800 pupils went missing from primary and secondary school on the average day in 2017-18.

Meanwhile, the number of penalty fines handed to parents for their children’s absence rose from 186 in 2016-17 to 352 issued in 2017-18.

Fiona Brown, executive director of neighbourhoods at Sunderland City Council, said: “We continue to encourage schools to work closely with parents to reduce unauthorised absences.

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“When parents are identified as failing in their responsibility over school attendance, the local authority works in conjunction with schools by using an agreed non-attendance procedures which includes home visits, invitations for parents to attend school to talk to staff, and parenting contracts which ask parents to commit to ensuring good attendance from their child.

“The aim is to support parents in improving their child’s attendance, without resorting to legal powers.

“However, the local authority can and will use a range of legal sanctions available to secure improvement, as children and young pupil’s educational success is linked to attendance.

“Where pupil absence fails to improve and is not authorised by the school, legal sanctions are considered to ensure our young people receive a good education.”

Across England, the number of fines issued increased by 75% to over 260,000 in 2017-18.

The rise in fines comes after father Jon Platt lost a case at the Supreme Court in April 2017 for taking his daughter out of school for a holiday to Disney World, Florida, without permission.

The latest increase in the number of fines issued appears to be due to councils getting clarity from the Supreme Court judgment.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The rules on term-time absences are clear: no child should be taken out of school without good reason.

“We have put headteachers back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”