All children of compulsory school age (5-16) should receive suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or through other arrangements. If a child is registered at school, parents have the primary legal responsibility for ensuring that their child attends school regularly.
Beyond being a societal necessity, the law in England and Wales requires parents to ensure that their children receive a full-time education suited to their needs. For most children this translates into attending school regularly. It is, however, reasonable for a child to miss school when ill or faced with an unexpected family situation.
The problem though is posed by parents who would rather have them hop and shop in a mall than be studying in school. Such parents are neither exercising their moral rights nor common sense, but are also ruining the chances for the kids to grow up and become responsible adults in the future. Frequenting the habit spells trouble for the parents too as truancy or absence from school is understood to be a root cause of poor educational standards in the country. In fact it has become such a raging epidemic that schools have had to take action on students found guilty of truancy on more than one occasion.
To make both parents and children aware absence rates are also stated in the school league tables. As a final recourse, the schools and local authorities have legal rights to deal with the issue. Any child registered at a school can with authorisation miss school only in very restricted circumstances. These are: when the child is too ill to attend or when the school has pre-authorised the absence.
Reasons for Absence from school could be:
Ill health is the leading cause of children missing school. Though considered as a legitimate reason for the health and safety of all, the school can ask for medical certificates for absence of more than a week.
Future is uncertain and emergencies happen all the time. However apart from any grave emergency children must not attend to what the adults can , that us a child cannot be made to stay home nursing the ill or wounded.
Some days hold special relevance for some as compared to others such as Eid for Muslims, Diwali for Hindus, and Christmas for Christians, etc. Since these are few in number they are hardly a driving factor for the absence of children at school.
When a child is ill and therefore absent from school, it is crucial for parents to contact the school timely. This can usually be done by a telephone. While it sounds elementary, it is very significant in helping both parents and schools check truancy. Also, once the child has recovered enough to return to school, it is essential that parents write a letter explaining the absence. This helps teachers remain fully informed of the child’s recovery.
The local education authority (LEA) must provide for transport to schools in legally defined circumstances. Otherwise the lack of transport can be a valid reason for children missing school.
While the reasons for children missing school may be countless, the aforementioned reasons constitute the major ones, while things like entertainment license, exclusion or expulsion from school, family trips, interviews, etc. fill up the remainder of the list.
For any kind of planned absence the school permission in essential and it is best to apply for it well in advance. Permissions are usually granted unless there is an important reason for the school not to. Nonetheless, to ensure it, parents are encouraged to write to the school, phrasing the question genuinely and sincerely. Failure to comply can lead to persecution.
SAO or a School Attendance Order is an order issued to ensure no child is not on the roll at any school. SAOs are also handy in directing you to send your child to a specified school of his/her preference.
Along with prosecuting the offender, the local authority may apply to a court for an ESO or an Education Supervision Order. The ESO program associates a supervisor, specifically appointed to you to offer help. He also actively advices on getting your child back into education.
If you are having trouble getting your child to go to school, help is not far. The school and local authority extend support to parents facing such challenges in many ways. One of which is a parenting contract. Parenting contracts are a voluntary form of support that goes easy on the reprimand, for their purpose is to help fuse the child, parent and the school or local authority to work together towards the child’s attendance. They, however, can be used as evidence by the local authority if faced with non-compliance of the terms of the contract.
Another alternative to prosecution is issuance of penalty notices by authorised local staff, police officers or head teachers to the parents of children who are irregular to school. The penalty incurs a parent £50 for each instance, rising to £100 on non-payment within 28 days coupled with possible prosecution.
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