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Can a parent be prosecuted for the non-(school)attendance of child who has estranged herself from him?

(17 Posts)
ColeslawGuzzler Wed 30-Jan-13 21:30:36

Husband last saw his daughter (now aged 14) almost three years ago when, finally, she decided that the "rules" at our house were overbearing and unreasonable (they weren't). She "divorced" her father and no longer visited on alternate weekends. She had previously lived with us full-time (well, 6/7ths) and half time. He's had a lot to do with her since her mother and he separated when she was 4. He was not an absentee father. Obviously he didn't accept her rejection easily, and there had been many years before of adjustments, talking, strategies etc etc etc. I could go on and on about the history and context but I won't. believe me he tried but you can't physically force a child to do what they don't want to do. Anyway, years have passed and she doesn't go to school. He's kept in touch with an officer at the council and received regular reports on progress/non-attendance. They seemed to do nothing. Before xmas he wrote and asked how this fits with the Education Act stating that children should receive and education - what is going on here? seems this child is being allowed to bunk off permanently. The council wrote back and he received a letter today saying that he could be prosecuted since he has parental responsibility. But there is nothing he could have done to make her go to school (though she did attend when she had contact with him).

Does anyone know anything about this or have similar experiences at all? It doesn't seem logical. I know what parental responsibility is by the way, but no definition I have come across clarifies his position.

wellcoveredsparerib Wed 30-Jan-13 21:48:54

Whoever your dsd lives with is responsible for ensuring her education. Your dh cannot be prosecuted. There should be an Educational Social Worker involved with your dsd that your husband could talk to.

ColeslawGuzzler Wed 30-Jan-13 21:55:27

Thank you wellcoveredsparerib (nice name). He has contact with Attendance and Inclusion Officer (AIO) and Family Therapist but not Ed. Scoial Worker. I reckoned it must be whoever the child resides with that is responsible for ensuring they get to school. Otherwise it is completely unworkable/unrealistic. It's the AIO that has made the threat. I think she has written in a slightly unguarded fashion because she thinks her handling of the situation is being criticised. She says she's had discussions with the City Council's solicitor though.

prh47bridge Wed 30-Jan-13 22:29:56

I'm sorry but the information given by wellcoveredsparerib is wrong. Your husband can be prosecuted. Under the Education Act 1996 section 444 a parent is guilty of an offence if their child fails to regularly attend school and can be fined up to £1,000. There is nothing in the Act that limits fines to the parent with whom the child is living.

If the parent is aware of their child's non-attendance and fails to get the child to attend without reasonable justification they can be fined up to £2,500 and/or sent to prison for up to 3 months. In the situation you describe your husband clearly has reasonable justification for failing to get his daughter to attend school so he cannot receive the higher fine or be sent to prison.

ColeslawGuzzler Wed 30-Jan-13 22:37:09

Do you mean he could be fined the first £1,000, even in these circumstances where he has no contact with his daughter? Wouldn't it be admitting culpability to pay up if he was issued with a fine? He thinks it would be and is inclined to say No. Also, he work/lives abroad now. Even less able to influence her or the parent she lives with.

prh47bridge Thu 31-Jan-13 01:29:44

As the law stands he can be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £1,000. He can only be fined this much if the council take him to court. If found guilty he would have no choice but to pay.

The school or LA is also entitled to issue a fixed penalty notice with a fine of £60 for each absence, rising to £120 if it is not paid within 28 days. This must be paid even if the parent is not aware of their child's failure to attend school and/or is not in a position to get the child to attend. A refusal to pay could result in the parent being prosecuted and facing a fine of up to £1,000.

Just to be completely clear, under Education Act 1996 section 444(1) the parent commits an offence if the child fails to attend school. It does not matter whether or not the parent is aware of or is in any way responsible for their child's non-attendance.

ColeslawGuzzler Thu 31-Jan-13 09:48:21

Does it make any difference that he lives outside the UK (outside Europe in fact)?

gallicgirl Thu 31-Jan-13 09:54:56

Well the fine would be unenforceable unless a warrant was issued and he returned to UK.

I prosecute people as part of my job, albeit in a different area, and I really wouldn't fancy trying that one in front of a magistrate.

ColeslawGuzzler Thu 31-Jan-13 10:01:02

No, of course. Only thinking that living in a different country is obviously going to mean he has nothing to do with her school attendance. He wouldn't really put himself in a position where he couldn't return to the UK, which he does to visit the rest of his family. And he hopes to return to "normal" UK living/working when the job market is improved.

What prh47bridge is saying doesn't seem fair, but there is an awful lot that isn't fair, some of it much worse and more nonsensical than this I suppose.

zipzap Thu 31-Jan-13 12:00:59

I don't know anything about this but just from reading the thread, it seems that if a child - such as this dd - has a grudge against a parent and wants to bunk off school, they might actively like the fact that the parent is being fined and can't do anything about it.

In this case, where the parent is living overseas and therefore obviously not involved in the day to day hell practicalities of getting a child to school in the morning, and is actively talking to what he was told were the appropriate people in authority (ok so there may now be more coming out of the woodwork, but if you weren't told about them you can hardly be expected to know) about being concerned about his dd missing school and trying to find out remotely what more can be done - it seems bonkers that they would fine him regardless.

Do you know if the same letter or something similar has gone out to the mother who should be the one making sure the child is in school in the morning? Would be completely barmy if your dh got fined because he lived abroad and was expressing concern, whereas the person letting it all happen was not (I appreciate that the ex might be experiencing problems herself in getting the dd to school and might not want her to be off but isn't physically able to pick her up and take her into school in the same way that you might be able to if you have a truculent 4 yr old who says he doesn't want to go to school in the morning. Or she might not care, it's not obvious from the op).

prh47bridge Thu 31-Jan-13 12:42:48

I think the real question is not whether the council can prosecute but whether they would prosecute. In your situation I hope they would not but it is up to them.

ColeslawGuzzler Thu 31-Jan-13 16:57:55

No I didn't say much about that in the original post zipzap. But, what the mother wants is a quiet life. I'm sure she does really want her child at school and receiving an education, but if it means a shouting match.... It started with allowing a "duvet day" for periods, then "a bit of time to get over it" for a bust up with a friend and then a weekly "she just doesn't enjoy PE, it spoils her whole day". Gradually she's allowed her daughter to do exactly as she pleases. This now includes (dsd still only 14) drinking and smoking (inc. cannabis) in the house, having her 16+ boyfriend sleeping over and all that comes with that. Her whole attitude is "if they're going to do it, they're going to do it, and they might as well do it safely under my roof". Except it isn't, as dsd goes out at all hours and has even been brought home by the police. At Christmas dh saw on twitter that she'd received miniature luxury vodka and fancy cigarettes...from Father Christmas! And was celebrating opening her own market stall (someone over 18 must have signed the lease?). So, dh wrote to the council along the lines of: "if she's well enough to set up and run a shop/stall, she's well enough to attend school...she's allowed to engage in x, y and z grown up activities, no wonder she feels school is beneath her...and finally, what is the council doing about this?...are you just going to carry on processing her until she hits 16, then sign her off?" This letter from the council is obviously their way of saying "DON'T CRITICISE US...BACK OFF, OR WE'LL DO WHAT THE LAW WILL LET US DO!"

Frustrating to say the least. He's now inclined (having slept on it) to do nothing at all from here on. No more letters or questions regarding dd's welfare, attendance, attainment, mental health etc. He'll just pay up the (v sizable) monthly maintenance (fair enough of course). and that's that. very sad. The council won. They can't be arsed to sort out the education this child has a right to, so that's it.

gallicgirl Thu 31-Jan-13 17:28:14

She has a market stall?

I wonder if this could be used as an incentive? The girl is blatantly not interested in school for whatever reason, but maybe her business enterprise could be encouraged. After all, if you run a business, you need to be able to do accounts, business plans, advertising, negotiating....I know the UK school system is very prescriptive but perhaps there is an alternative form of education she could engage in.

DameSaggarmakersbottomknocker Thu 31-Jan-13 17:53:57

I think it's unfair to say They can't be arsed to sort out the education this child has a right to, so that's it.

She has the education she has a right to; she's choosing not to access it. It's not the council's responsibility to ensure she attends (unless she's placed in their care); that lies with the parents. What would you have the council do when the mother appears to condone the truancy? They could refer to social services if they feel the child is being neglected. Does dad feel that's the case?

ColeslawGuzzler Thu 31-Jan-13 19:58:29

You are absolutely right. I worded that very badly. She has been provided with an education. A good one too. By good people, bending over backwards for her at three different very good secondary schools. And she has chosen not to take it. And yes, gallicgirl, I agree, at 14+ there are programmes that allow skills rather than qualifications to be the priority. She's rejected all of these so far though (insists she wants to go to university. hmm).

ColeslawGuzzler Thu 31-Jan-13 20:01:49

He doesn't know enough for sure to be able to call it neglect. He can't very well say "a friend on facebook tells me...."

gallicgirl Thu 31-Jan-13 21:57:59

Then it needs pointing out to her that she needs to attend school and achieve the necessary grades to go to uni. Although I wouldn't push that route myself, but I would push some form of training or qualifications.

It must be very frustrating for her father and I hope she sees the light soon.
I went to an average school and sort of worked hard, got into uni, got a degree, got a job but I wish to God someone had sat me down and made me think about what I really want out of life and the best way to achieve that.

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