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Fines for parents whose children miss school to rise as part of government ‘attendance drive’

Fines for parents whose children miss school will rise by at least £20 as part of an “attendance drive” from the government.

The Department for Education (DfE) said a national framework would be introduced from the start of the 2024/25 school year “to help tackle inconsistencies” in how much institutions charge for unauthorised absences, and all parents must be considered for the penalty if a child misses five days.

The cost of a fine will rise from £60 to £80 if paid within 21 days, and from £120 to £160 if paid within 28 days, the DfE said.

But the general secretary of the National Education Union, Daniel Kebede, said fining parents more was “not the answer”, especially during a cost of living crisis, claiming the move would “simply plunge them into debt”.

“There is no evidence that fining parents improves attendance,” he added. “It simply drives young people out of the system.”

Other measures in the department’s plan will see every state school in England share their registers across the sector, including with the DfE, councils and trusts, to create a database to help spot trends.

And a new national attendance ambassador has been appointed – the chief executive of the Northern Education Trust, Rob Tarn – to support the sector to improve attendance.

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Thousands of school children missing

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Our fantastic schools and teachers unlock children’s imagination, potential and social skills, which is why improving attendance is my number one priority.

“Today we are taking that next step to further boost attendance and I want to thank those who are working with us, including teachers and heads.”

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But Labour’s shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, accused the government of “only just waking up to the damage of persistent absence that has reached historic levels on their watch”, and said the measures only “address the symptoms of absence, not the causes”.

She said: “Persistent absence was rising long before the pandemic – the result of growing unaddressed mental ill health and the impact of years of economic decline hitting family finances and a breakdown of trust between schools and families.”

Ms Phillipson urged the government to follow her party’s plan to introduce a register of children not attending and to provide mental health support in every school.

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