Fining parents will be ‘last resort’ for non-attendance at West Sussex schools in September

Parents who don’t send their children back to school in September will only be fined as a last resort, West Sussex County Council has said.

Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education and skills
Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education and skills

At a meeting of the full council, Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education and skills, was asked what would happen if parents who were worried about the pandemic kept youngsters away from lessons.

In a written answer, Mr Jupp said the council understood that parents and children might be anxious about going back and would work with schools to help prepare them ‘for safe and managed return’.

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He added: “The education and skills service will continue to work with schools to engage with and support parents in getting their children back into school before considering issuing penalties for poor attendance.

“Issuing fines for non-attendance is always a last resort.”

Confidence was the key word, especially when it came to convincing parents that schools were doing all they could to ‘minimise health risks’ for the children – many of whom would be returning after almost six months away.

Mr Jupp said: “We believe that work principally needs to build confidence and support a return.

“However, should there be instances where all efforts to engage with and support parents prove unsuccessful in improving a child’s attendance then, in accordance with government guidance, the county council will consider whether fining would be appropriate.”

Advice to schools from the Department for Education included: grouping children in ‘bubbles’ based on class or year group and avoiding contact between these groups; making sure those with Covid-19 symptoms stayed away; and not holding group events such as assemblies.

Some headteachers, though, have questioned how easy it will be to keep children apart all day.

And unions have accused the government of ‘rushing through’ the September restart, with no plan in place should a second wave of the virus hit.

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