Update to unauthorised school absence policy will make criteria for penalty notices clearer

Cabinet members have approved a revised Barnsley Council code of conduct for schools and academies on the issuing of fixed penalty notices to parents for unauthorised school absence and leave of absence (holidays in term time).

The revised policy will be effective from the 2019/20 academic year and has been subject to full consultation with governing bodies, chief executives of academy trusts, head teachers and the chief officer of police.

The updated code of conduct will provide clarity to schools and families as to when a penalty notice can be issued in Barnsley.

The changes were prompted as a result of the judgement made by the Supreme Court on 6 April 2017, to uphold an appeal by Isle of Wight Council concerning the interpretation of what constitutes ‘regular’ attendance and that this interpretation, together with authorising any pupil absence in exceptional circumstances, should rest with the head teacher in compliance with the rules, concerning school attendance as set out by the school or academy.  

The main change to the code is the removal of the following criteria which head teachers were previously required to consider when assessing the merits of a leave of absence request during term time:

  • Previous periods of leave of absence,
  • leave of absences taken in the first term,
  • exams and assessments,
  • employers letter(s).

Under the new code, penalty notices could be issued if any of the following three conditions applies:

  • A pupil has accumulated five or more consecutive days of unauthorised leave of absence (holiday in term time),
  • if due to sporadic absences, then, other than in specific circumstances, the parent/carer will receive a formal warning of the possibility of a Penalty Notice being issued and given a maximum of 15 school days to effect an improvement. If there are further absences within the 15 day monitoring period then a Penalty Notice may be issued,
  • an excluded pupil present in a public place without justification, during the hours of the school day where the pupil is on roll, during the first five days of each fixed period or permanent exclusion.

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for People (Achieving Potential) said: “One of Barnsley Council’s corporate objectives is ensuring every child attends a good school as part of achieving his or her potential.

“We need parents, carers and pupils and schools to be on board with the fact that every school day matters; we know that there is a strong link between good school attendance and achieving good results.

“Term time holidays are the biggest cause of unauthorised absence in Barnsley primary schools, and in total, over 40,000 primary and secondary school days were lost during 2017-18 due to term time holidays.

“This updated code of conduct will give head teachers and families clear guidance on when penalty notices may be issued.”

The report and background papers can be read in full here: http://bit.ly/2H8E5mY

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