Is the increasing number of fines for pupil absenteeism helping?

”One-size-fits all approach can damage relationship between parents and schools” says ATL

Statistics released today showed that the number of fines for children missing school have increased, as has the conviction rate. However, a large proportion of these are for term-time holidays, rather than children simply skipping school.

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “We’re very concerned about the increased use of fines and custodial sentences as a tool to tackle absenteeism. We believe a one-size-fits-all approach can be costly, not only to parents and families who may not be able to manage it, but also to the vital relationships between schools and parents.”

Ellis points out that the rise of fines and custodial sentences also raises questions as to the effectiveness of this approach, and believes that while term-time holidays are an issue, pupil absence happens for a range of reasons including bullying, caring responsibilities, the impact of poverty, parental health issues or special educational needs.

“Tackling pupil absenteeism is important for schools and we need an approach which builds on partnerships with other schools and with local services and agencies including health, social service and the local authority,” she says. “Truancy is a deeply complex issue and the journey to get pupils in school is only the first step to fully engaging them and their families to support their learning and ensure they get the opportunities to develop.”