Penalties for Truancy in the UK

The UK law states that it is the legal responsibility of parents to ensure that their children of compulsory school age (5-16 years) receive full time education suitable to their needs. It is the parents’ responsibility to register their child or children at a school and make sure they attend school regularly.

Despite this, more than 9000 parents were convicted in 2010 for failing to make sure that their children are attending school. 25 parents were jailed, according to the statistics released by UK Ministry of Justice. Prosecutions for this crime increased from 3446 in 2002 to 11757 in 2010. Convictions also increased from 2827 to 9147 over the same period (www.justice.gov.uk). The Department of Education states that half a million UK school children were away from school so regularly that it was as if they missed an equivalent of a whole month of lessons in 2010 (www.education.gov.uk).

It is surprising to note that parents themselves don’t place a lot of importance on their children’s education. Most children are caught in the company of their parents in ‘truancy sweeps’ hence the need to penalize the parents. Some parents take their children on holiday during school time to take advantage of cheap family holiday deals.

The UK government has passed laws to force parents to ensure school attendance by their children. If parents fail to register their children with any school or provide any reasonable alternative, they are issued with a School Attendance Order. This order will give the parent a specific time frame (not less than 15 days) within which they must comply or thereafter face prosecution.

Section 23 of the Anti-social Behavior Act of 2003 allows the police, council officers or educational authorities to issue penalty notices to parents of children who are truanting. The fine is £50 if paid within 28 days. If it is not paid within 28 days, it is increased to £100. The parents are prosecuted if no payment is done within six weeks.

If a child is suspended from school, the parents are still charged if the child is caught without their parents within the first five days of the exclusion from school.

Authorities are not compelled by law to issue a penalty notice. They can go ahead and prosecute the parent(s) without issuing a notice. The Education and Inspections Act of 2006 sets a £2 500 fine or in extreme cases 3 months imprisonment if this prosecution happens.

Authorities may also issue a Parenting Order (PO) to force parents to attend parenting classes or do whatever the court think is necessary to make the child change their behavior and attend school. The local authority may apply to Court for an Education Supervision Order (ESO) instead of prosecuting the parent (s). The order will facilitate the appointment of supervisor to help and advise the parent on how to get their children back to school.