Cambs & Peterborough: Parent Prosecutions

Heart has discovered that there has been a rise of more than 70 percent in the number of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough parents prosecuted for failing to ensure their child attends school.

Parents have a legal obligation to ensure their children attend school up to the age of 16 years old.

If a student's attendance persistently drops below 85 percent, their parents can be prosecuted, fined up to £2,500 or even jailed.

Figures released to Heart under the Freedom of Information Act show 247 parents in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough were successfully prosecuted by authorities for failing to ensure their child attends school during the 2011/12 academic year.

That compares to 144 in the 2010/11 school year; an increase of 71 percent.

An anonymous Cambridgeshire teacher told Heart: "Some parents are very supportive and they will come and talk to us about their child's attendance.

However, some can be outraged and insulted that we've even mentioned it too them.

So it's very difficult sometimes for us to get the message across about why it is important that their child is in school and learning.

Even a student dropping to a 90 percent attendance over a whole school year means half a day off school every week, or put them all together, and it means a month of school missed.

That is work that quite often students don't catch up on."

A spokesman for Peterborough City Council, said: "Parents and carers have a legal obligation to ensure that children of compulsory age, who are registered at school, attend on a regular basis.

Children who miss school will have their learning disrupted and will not be able to access the education that they are entitled to. 

If attendance falls below 85 per cent, this is treated as being a persistent absentee and the council will work with families to improve attendance and avoid legal action. 

However, parents that consistently fail to send a child to school without reasonable justification can be prosecuted. 

This can result in fines of up to £2,500 and in extreme cases, prison."

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