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Is it discriminatory to issue penalty notices for term time absence to both parents?

(81 Posts)
minisale Fri 05-Jul-13 13:28:21

Our LEA has a policy of issuing a fine to each parent for each child if you take them out of school for 5 consecutive days. So a two parent family will receive four penalty notices of £50 each while a single parent family will receive just two for the same act. The impact of taking the two children out of school is exactly the same. Is this discriminating against two parent families and therefore is it illegal for the County Council to implement this policy? Ideas, knowledge, experiences and views gratefully received.

tiggytape Sun 07-Jul-13 18:41:54

I think the de-registering and then re-registering so soon afterwards might be the thing. It isn’t an informal thing you can do since it goes via the council not just the school. It depends on your council though and whether they flag concerns about children in the area being removed from state education.
You can legitimately Home Ed for 6 months and many people do. They may question however whether you can legitimately Home Ed for just 2 weeks especially when this sudden change of heart in educational approach happens to coincide with a 2 week trip to a sunnier location. Even if you find you can can pop in and out for as long as the school is short on numbers, it just seems a very OTT action to take to avoid a potential fine.

Needtostopbuyingcrap Sun 07-Jul-13 18:50:12

My friend happens to be a Welsh traveller and she told me these changes don't apply to her. Why?
Why aren't we all treated the same?

EliotNess Sun 07-Jul-13 19:22:11

Respecting their culture. ?
Or setting them up to fail. Some councils have special traveller education units

Needtostopbuyingcrap Sun 07-Jul-13 19:26:15

Shouldn't it be one rule for all? I can see a lot of noses being put out by this.

EliotNess Sun 07-Jul-13 19:47:55

Only yours ! I think prejudice against minority groups has a habit of ending badly.

Needtostopbuyingcrap Sun 07-Jul-13 20:01:05

My nose wouldn't be put out, it doesn't bother me.
Nobody should have special treatment at all. That's all i am saying.

One rule for all, so it's fair for all.
My mate is a traveller but she has never been on the road, she spent all of her life in a house. It makes no sense at all.

prh47bridge Sun 07-Jul-13 21:23:27

OldLadyKnowsNothing - The relevant legislation allows the NRP to be fined. However it would be hard to make a penalty notice stick if the NRP has no involvement with the child.

xylem8 - De-registering for two weeks for a holiday is rather different to home educating for 6 months. If the school decided to issue a penalty notice when you re-registered I suspect the LA and the courts would view your proposed course of action as a transparent attempt to get round the law. The school would therefore be allowed to act as if your child had remained registered at the school throughout.

Needtostopbuyingcrap - The changes apply in England so they don't apply to her if she is in Wales. If she is in England she is mistaken, although this appears to be a common belief amongst travellers. The only special provision for travellers is that a child who has no fixed abode because the parents trade or business requires them to travel from place to place can be registered at more than one school. It is therefore harder to track unauthorised absence for such pupils but not impossible. If all the schools involved agree that an absence is unauthorised a penalty notice can be issued. If your Welsh traveller friend does not actually travel she is subject to the same regulations as everyone else.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sun 07-Jul-13 21:56:20

Such a cynical thing to try to do! Just pick a time to go on holiday that isn't in term time!

xylem8 Sun 07-Jul-13 22:33:50

PRH47bridge- do you actually know anything about how the law works?

tiggytape Sun 07-Jul-13 22:58:34

prh47 is an MN schools and admissions expert if that's what you mean xylem8?

Tanith Sun 07-Jul-13 23:35:26

"Each person with parental responsibility for a child is committing an offence if they don't ensure they go to school."

It's my understanding that the legal requirement is to ensure your child is receiving an education, not that he or she attends school.

prh47bridge Mon 08-Jul-13 00:34:33

Tanith - Whilst it is a legal requirement to ensure your child is receiving an education that is by no means the only legal requirement. Under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 the parent is guilty of an offence if a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly. That is the offence for which a penalty notice is issued.

xylem8 - Yes I know quite a lot about how the law works. If the courts allowed you to get away with your proposed course of action it would mean parents could take their children out of school for as many holidays of whatever length they wanted by de-registering their child for the duration. That would defeat the purpose of the legislation. I therefore believe it is very likely the courts would take the view that de-registering a child to take a holiday and then immediately re-registering is not a genuine de-registration and should be ignored for the purposes of Section 444. The legal backing for this would be supplied by the fact that in order to de-register your child without sending them to another school you have to provide written notification that your child is receiving education otherwise than at school (Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006). If you gave such notification it would clearly be false as your intention is to take a holiday, not educate your child, so your child should not have been de-registered. If you did not give such notification the school should not de-register your child.

Tanith Mon 08-Jul-13 06:33:04

Prh47bridge: thank you for clarifying.

OldLadyKnowsNothing Mon 08-Jul-13 16:19:30

And thanks from me too. flowers

ukjess Sat 20-Jul-13 14:05:16

why not simply holiday in the allowed dates?

like everyone else?

cloudskitchen Mon 22-Jul-13 23:21:24

That is ridiculous. The fine should be per child not per parent!

prh47bridge Tue 23-Jul-13 00:15:59


Both parents are responsible for ensuring their child attends school. Both parents commit an offence if the child fails to attend regularly. You wouldn't expect the fine to be split between you if you both went shoplifting. Why should it be split between you if you both fail to ensure that your child attends school?

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 23-Jul-13 00:48:46

But what if it genuinely IS 2 weeks of education?

Then what?

cloudskitchen Tue 23-Jul-13 17:54:00

I just believe it is. it might be 2 parents but its one family. you cant dissect a family as and when it suits you. if 2 people share a joint bank account and it goes overdrawn they will not get charged seperate overdraft fees. They will be charged once for each misdemeanour. there are many other examples. someone has just spotted an opportunity to squeeze more money out of families and whats more they can make themselves beyond reproach by taking the higher moral ground. my kids school dont fine and I have never taken them out for holidays anyway however I do get cheesed off with people milking every penny out of a situation just because they can!

prh47bridge Tue 23-Jul-13 18:16:54

StarlightMcKenzie - It is up to the head teacher whether or not to authorise the absence. If the head agrees it is two weeks of education they may be willing to authorise it, in which case no-one will be fined.

cloudskitchen - Going overdrawn with your bank is not an offence. The situation is governed by your contract with the bank. Unlike failing to ensure your child's attendance at school you cannot be imprisoned for it. A more accurate analogy would be a couple going shoplifting together (or insert any other minor offence of your choice). They won't get one fine to split between them. They will each get a separate fine. Nothing to do with squeezing more money out of families. Just the way the law works. And to be blunt, if the government want to squeeze more money out of families this would not be a very efficient way of doing so. After all, families can avoid paying anything by simply ensuring their child does not take unauthorised absences.

cloudskitchen Tue 23-Jul-13 18:23:16

I disagree with you and your analogy. Its completely ott. We are talking about kids missing a bit of school on rare occasions to spend time with their families doing fun stuff. nothing more melodramatic than that. not stealing as you suggest, and please dont come back and say their education is being stolen and etc... I'm sure there are many parents that would laugh and being compared with shoplifters. It made me smile both times grin

gintastic Tue 23-Jul-13 18:30:21

Surely deregistering and re registering would only work if the school wasn't full? If I tried this at DD's school the place would be taken up quicker than I could blink and she'd have no place to come back to.

Does anyone have any idea what constitutes exceptional circumstances? DD has had 2 authorised days off this year, one for a funeral and one to see relatives visiting from abroad (she hasn't seen them for a year and won't see them again for another year if we hasn't seen them on that day). Would these count? What about weddings?

cloudskitchen Tue 23-Jul-13 18:42:48

gintastic our school would be the same plus what a hassle...

If you're school authorised those absences they obviously felt they were good enough reasons. I can't imagine any school not authorising for a funeral.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 23-Jul-13 18:47:39

yes, My children would lose their place, but they'd go on the top of the waiting list and it is a big school so more likely to get a leaver. In the mean time I'd just do more fun stuff with the kids while I wait.

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 23-Jul-13 18:51:14

I suppose I don't like the system because where a parent and a HT can disagree what is in the best interest of a child holistically, or even simply educationally, the HT 'wins'.

This issues is an absolute nightmare when it comes to SN as most teachers are woefully undertrained in this respect, yet few would admit this.

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