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By law, parents are responsible for making sure their child gets a full-time education. If your child does not attend school regularly, you will be held responsible, even if your child is truanting without your knowledge.

truancy cartoon
The Government says that children should not be excluded from school if they have been truanting. But a school might want to exclude a child if they have been truanting and their behaviour has been unacceptable.

Schools are trying hard to reduce truancy, and the Government has brought in new penalties, including fines, for parents who fail to make sure their child is going to school. The local authority could take you to court if your child frequently truants. They could also take you to court if your child is often late for school.

Your responsibilities as a parent

The law says that parents have responsibilities for their children’s education.

  • You must make sure your child receives a full-time education. This usually means attending school, but parents do have a right to educate their children at home.
  • Your child must start to go to school on the first school day of the term following their fifth birthday.
  • Your child must stay at school until the last Friday in June in the school year they reach 16, which means right until the end of Year 11, even if your child is not taking any exams.
  • By law, parents must make sure that their child is attending school regularly.
  • However before taking that step, schools should offer to help you and your child.

Once the school notices that your child is truanting, an Education Welfare Officer (EWO) will get in touch with you. The EWO will work with you and the school, and will try to find out about any problems your child might be having at school that might have led to them truanting. The EWO will also work with you and your child on a plan to help them get to school on time every day, and stay there. The plan might include, for example:

  • setting targets for attendance;
  • you taking your child to school;
  • helping your child if they have particular problems with a teacher; or
  • taking the attendance register at every lesson.

However, if your child continues to truant, you could be prosecuted. If the local education authority takes you to court, it must show that you knew that your child wasn’t going to school. If you can’t show that you have been trying to make your child go to school, you could be:

  • fined up to £2,500;
  • put in prison for up to three months;
  • made to attend counselling or parenting courses, under a ‘parenting order’.

You might also be told to go with your child to school each day to ensure that he or she does actually go to school.

If your child is not registered to attend any school and is not receiving a suitable education at home, then the local authority can issue a School Attendance Order (SAO). This names the school your child must attend. If you do not obey the SAO you can be prosecuted. If you can show that your child is receiving a suitable education, you can use this as a defence to such legal action.

November 2008

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