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School Truancy and Attendance Solicitors in London
Every parent is duty bound in line with the Education Act 1996 to ensure their children aged 5 to 16 are in full time education and that they attend school regularly.
Of course times will arise when children cannot attend school, perhaps because of poor health; because they have been excluded or because there has been an agreed period of absence for some other reason, such as bereavement or bullying. Other than these, there are no other valid reasons for a child to not attend school and, even if a parent is unaware of the situation, the responsibility still falls upon them.
Am I Allowed to Home Educate my Children in London if That is my Preference?
All parents are legally entitled to make their own decision as to where their children receive their education, although there are certain conditions. Some parents opt to educate their children at home for various reasons, and this is considered acceptable providing adequate full time education suited to age and ability can be provided. It is also a requirement to fulfil any special educational needs. If these criteria cannot be met, then a request to home educate will be declined.
Parents who elect to home educate their children take on full responsibility to deliver the curriculum. London Local Authorities will more often than not request details of the education plan so they can satisfy themselves it is suitable.
What Responsibilities do I have as a Parent for Ensuring my Child is Attending School in London?
Truancy – otherwise referred to as ‘unauthorised absence’ – is the regular missing of school without good reason.
Unless you have arranged to educate your child at home in London, you are legally required to register them at a school, and then go on to make sure they are regularly attending.
When a London Local Authority suspects that a child is not receiving a full time education, they will intervene. If your child is found to be missing school on a regular basis, an Education Welfare Officer (EWO) will visit you. Their job is to ascertain whether there are any problems being experienced by your child that could be putting them off attending school. They will liaise between you and the school and come up with a plan aimed at bringing consistency to their attendance. Sometimes parents of London children are asked to take them to the school gate each day, for example.
Sometimes parents are asked to sign into a contract with the school or Local Authority. In doing so, they agree to make sure their child attends school on a regular basis through a set time period. Support will be provided by the school or Local Authority, which might for example involve providing transport to and from school.
I am Being Prosecuted for my Child’s Truancy, What Should I do?
If the agreement does not work in practice and the truancy continues, it is possible that the Local Education Authority will take steps to prosecute you, especially if you cannot demonstrate that you took steps to mend issues of which you were aware.
The best course of action is to seek guidance from a London school truancy and attendance solicitor. They will take you step by step through the process. Your defence will be prepared on the basis that you did indeed make the effort to ensure your child was attending school regularly.
What if I Cannot Prove I’ve Been Trying to Make my Child Attend School?
In cases where parents are unable to demonstrate that they have been trying to get their children to attend school in London, a Parenting Order or Education Supervision Order (ESO) may be issued. If there is substance to the belief that a child is receiving no full time education whatsoever, then a School Attendance Order (SAO) may be presented.
However, before an SAO comes a layer of discussion between the London Local Authority and the parents, during which an agreement as to remedial steps will be made. In cases where it does not prove possible to reach an agreement, the SAO will be served and there will be 15 days for parents to follow the stipulated procedures. If these procedures are not followed then a penalty notice may be served; the parent may be prosecuted or an Education Supervision Order may be issued with the aim of helping get the child back into regular education.
Will I be Fined for my Child’s Truancy in London?
Penalty notices are sometimes issued starting at £60 and increasing to £120 when payment is not made within 21 days. If 28 days pass without payment then a prosecution could follow which may involve a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a custodial sentence of up to three months. A Parenting Order will accompany the prosecution.
Does my Child’s London School have a Duty Concerning Truancy?
All schools are required to have an attendance policy in place and must adhere to the parameters provided by the Department for Education. Whilst these parameters are not statutory, schools are strongly recommended to follow them.
A lot of Local Authorities in London have put programmes in place with a view to boosting school attendance and decreasing continuous absence. Schools receive support in monitoring children falling under the Department for Education’s ‘persistent absence’ threshold, which is currently 90 per cent absence, or regular absence patterns.
I’m Being Prosecuted for my Child’s Truancy: What can HCB Solicitors do to Help?
The experts at HCB Solicitors’ London office comprise specialists in the field of school attendance and truancy. Expertise in alternative education, such as home tuition, is also on offer.
As a parent you can expect to work side by side with your own dedicated solicitor who will put great effort into bringing together the necessary evidence to prove that you did in fact take fair steps to make sure your child was in receipt of adequate full time education. We are on a regular basis at Magistrates’ Court hearings representing parents and have on many occasions been successful in defending cases or at least reducing the effects of the outcome.
If you are facing concerns over your child’s school attendance or need advice on a school truancy prosecution, make today the day you speak to one of our London based specialist lawyers: we are here to help, and our extensive experience could make all the difference.