Council truancy patrols sweep into action

Nottingham City Council has continued its campaign against truancy by carrying out patrols across the south of the City.

‘Hotspots’ in the area were targeted this morning (20 April) by the council’s Education Welfare Officers (EWOs) and Community Protection Officers (CPOs) supported by Nottinghamshire Police.

If follows a previous patrol carried out in Bulwell at the start of the academic year in September 2017.

During today’s sweeps in Clifton, Sneinton, Lenton and the Meadows, plus areas of the city centre, officers stopped and challenged 42 youngsters who appeared to be under 16 and asked why they were not in school.

Those found out of lessons can be taken back to school or their home address. Parents can also then be issued with a fixed penalty notice by the authority.

Fines of £60 per parent, per child are issued for unauthorised absence. If this is not paid in 21 days, the fine doubles to £120 per parent, per child. If the fine is still unpaid, courts can impose tougher fines (with court costs) of up to £1,000 – and even have the power to issue prison sentences.

The Council also wants people in the community to report children they see who should be in school by calling a hotline number – 0115 876 1949.

These days of action take place at various points in the year and are supported by schools and academies, alongside Neighbourhood Development Officers and Community Protection Officers. It does not apply to children who are educated at home.

Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills at Nottingham City Council, said: “I welcome the action today and this highlights our intention to operate visible patrols to pupils, parents and the wider public across Nottingham.

“Our message is a strong one, but we have to be clear: children who are registered with a school need to be in that school – it’s the law.

“It’s not acceptable to be off school in term time and missing lessons can seriously harm your child’s education.

“We want all parents to be in no doubt that the City Council will take action when a child is persistently absent without agreement from the school.”

This tough stance on absence has so far helped to improve school attendance in Nottingham.

Recent figures from the Department for Education show persistence absence – defined as the proportion of pupils who have missed at least 10% of their school time – has fallen in Nottingham from 18.2% in 2012/13 to 12.6% in 2016/17. The city has also seen a drop in overall absences and is narrowing the gap on national schools.

For the last academic year (September 2016 to July 2017), 315 penalty notices have been issued to parents in Nottingham for unauthorised absence. A total of 196 parents have been prosecuted.

Councillor Webster added: “We know that the majority of parents act responsibly to ensure their children are in school when they should be, but it is vital that we tackle those who are breaking the law.

“We also recognise that some children are educated at home. However, the vast majority of Nottingham pupils receive a school education, and for these pupils there is a legal requirement for parents to ensure their child attends school.

“Even a pupil with 90% attendance is effectively missing one day of school every two weeks. In the working world, that’s almost a month of absence every year.

“Most importantly, missing 17 days of school has been proved to be the difference between getting one higher grade at GCSE level – and that is crucial for our young people.”

Parents can help their child’s attendance at school by:

  • Making sure their child gets to school on time
  • Not booking holidays during term time
  • Contacting the school the first day a child is off sick.

Today’s patrols were part of a long-term plan to improve school performance in Nottingham City through the Education Improvement Board. The City Council is also working with schools and academies to promote and recognise excellent attendance and good behaviour.

Over the past few years, pupils with the best or most improved attendance have been given prizes at the annual Lord Mayor’s Attendance Awards. Nottingham City Council also joined forces with Capital FM to run an award-winning campaign with secondary students to help improve attendance rates through exclusive music gigs.

More help and advice on attendance is available from www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/schoolattendance

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