Bradford Council’s tough line on truancy in Keighley district

Keighley News: Truants being talked to by police Truants being talked to by police

Schools across the district are getting tough on truancy and fining parents hundreds of pounds for taking children out of class without permission.

A new Freedom of Information request has revealed the number of penalty notices issued by Bradford district’s state schools has spiked to 692 in the first six months of the academic year, which started in September 2013.

And that is already 189 more than for the whole of the previous year when 503 such penalties were sent to errant parents.

Each penalty notice can carry as much as a £450 fine as punishment for a child’s unsanctioned absence.

Conservative education spokesman on Bradford Council Roger L’Amie welcomed the new get-tough approach by headteachers and said he was aware of a growing trend to clamp down on truancy.

“Some schools are definitely cracking down on absenteeism with a robust approach – which is a good thing,” he said.

“Basically, if you ‘ain’t at school - you ‘ain’t getting educated!

“And I understand groups of schools may have decided to bear down more heavily on irresponsible parents who take their children out of class for no good reason.”

Coun Ralph Berry, head of Bradford’s children’s services, said he agreed with Coun L’Amie’s explanation for the leap in penalty notices.

“The penalty notice has been a tool at schools’ disposal for a few years to tackle parentally-condoned absence and it is purely their decision to use it,” he said.

“And there is a mood for more interventions regarding attendance.”

Coun Berry said one aspect considered by schools was the level of importance placed on attendance figures by government Ofsted inspectors.

“If attendance levels dip to low, schools can find themselves in for a tough time when it comes to Ofsted reports,” Coun Berry said.

He highlighted a new problem area for schools which was prompted by a clash of educational cultures.

“There have been issues with East European arrivals because in Slovakia, for example, the statutory start of school age is seven whereas here it’s five.

“Basically, time missed in class means lower results and here in Bradford the name of the game is getting those results up!”

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