Issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for unauthorised absence in Cornwall’s Schools.
Since the Government change the legislation surrounding unauthorised absence during term time there has been a lot of stories in the media from local and national radio, to printed media on the subject of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN). Therefore, I felt it was important to explain fact from fiction. Without making this blog post long, and repeating something please read ‘Unauthorised absence during the school term’ to refresh yourselves.
In another blog post on ‘The number of fines from unauthorised absence in Cornwall’s schools’ I give details on the actual number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued by Cornwall Council on behalf of the Headteacher. To clarify, the decision on whether to grant leave of absence in term-time is always made by the Headteacher of each school. Head Teachers only grant leave of absence in term time if the reason is exceptional, with the individual Headteacher responsible for deciding what is considered to be exceptional.
If a pupil is absent during term-time without this being granted by the Head Teacher, then the school can request the Local Authority to consider issuing a Penalty Notice. Cornwall has a protocol for the issuing of Penalty Notices, agreed with schools, and is only issued under specific circumstances.
However, long-term truancy is a different matter and will not be covered via the FPN system. In cases like this, Education Welfare Officers will get involved by work closely with schools, parents and pupils to try to sort out attendance issues. This may involve arranging home and school visits to discuss the situation. They will try to find out the reasons why the child is not attending school and take steps to try to get the child back into school. This includes offering support or sign-posting to other agencies. Failing this, the Council will have to address truancy through the court system. This though is the last resort when all other options have been exhausted.
Has the introduction of the legislation worked? The answer to that depends on how it has affected you. For those in the tourism industry would say this change has had a devastating impact on their trade. The flip side of the coin is teachers say attendance has got better. As for parents, they may say holidays are unaffordable due to the massive hikes in prices during the school holidays.
There has been suggestions school holidays could be staggered. This sounds easy on paper, but trying to do this on a national scale is an almost impossible job, especially as academy schools have the right to set their own term and holiday periods. This makes it very difficult for Local Authorities to set fixed term times because schools can ignore it and so their own thing. For Blogs on this subject click School Term Times.
For those interested, more details on the policy can be found HERE