Due to the ongoing measures regarding COVID-19 the Attendance Team will continue to offer support and advice remotely. Email firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance and a member of the team will contact you.
Fixed penalty notices
During this time and the ever-changing response to the COVID-19 situation we will not be proceeding with legal interventions. The Department of Education has advised that the Secretary of State’s expectation is that no parent is penalised for their child’s non-attendance due to COVID-19.
We have been asked to:
- Suspend any penalty notice action or prosecutions for COVID-19 related absence with immediate effect
- Update our code of conduct for issuing penalty notices to make this clear
- New cases should not be taken forward and any cases from 16 March should be withdrawn. This approach should also be applied to prosecutions for non-attendance.
These are unprecedented times and whilst as a Local Authority we are clear that a child’s right to access an education is paramount, we understand that families are facing extreme uncertainty and financial hardship. In light of this, we have made the decision to suspend processing all FPN referrals. We will not be accepting new referrals at this time and will not pursue unpaid fines. We will continue to accept referrals regarding poor attendance of children where the Fast Track system hasn’t worked and will consider legal action on a case by case basis as usual. All current cases in the court system will continue as usual until the courts advise otherwise.
Legal intervention work
HM Courts and Tribunals Service have advised they will adjourn non-urgent or non-essential cases in the Magistrates Courts. Prosecutions relating to children not attending school are included in this classification.
We have therefore taken the decision to suspend all legal intervention work at this time. We understand that some of the cases you have referred to us have taken a great deal of work and time on your behalf and that you will be concerned about having not followed up a pupil’s non-attendance for their safety and wellbeing. Therefore, when normal school attendance resumes we will be working with all schools to address those cases of greatest concern and will offer appropriate support to address non-attendance.
On 17 March the following advice was provided from the Department for Education with regards to coding school attendance:
- Where a pupil is in self-isolation, in accordance with latest information and advice from Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England, the pupil should be recorded as unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances in the attendance register. Code Y (unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances) should be used in this instance.
- Where a pupil does not attend school despite the school operating as usual and is not self-isolating, the pupil will be marked as absent. It is for headteachers to determine whether or not the absence is authorised depending on the individual circumstances.
- Where a pupil cannot attend school due to illness, as normally would happen, the pupil should be recorded as absent in the attendance register and the school will authorise the absence. Code I (illness) should be used in this instance.
Schools and parents should refer to the latest information and advice from the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England.
On 18 March Government announced that from Monday 23 March 2020 schools will remain closed until further notice, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children. Schools and parents should refer to the latest information and advice from the Department of Education for clarification of which pupils will be classified into these groups.
The government guidance states that if parents working in critical sectors are able to ensure their child is kept at home then they should. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. With regards to vulnerable children, the child’s social worker will work with parents to assess the best option for that child.