In recent years, there has been increasing media coverage of the ongoing debate between schools and parents as to the circumstances in which a child can be removed from school without permission. If a child is routinely absent from school without permission then schools and Local Authorities are increasingly intervening, and even taking legal action against parents in a bid to try and ensure that children are present.
There are two main offences created by the Education Act 1996. One is committed where a parent fails to secure his or her child’s regular attendance at school. The other is committed where a parent knows that his or her child is failing to attend school regularly, and fails without reasonable justification to make the child attend.
The first of these offences is particularly punitive. It can be committed regardless of whether the parent is at fault. In fact, the offence is committed even if the parent is not aware that the child is not attending school regularly. Simply put, unless the parent in question can demonstrate that certain specific circumstances apply, if a child is not attending school regularly, the parent can be fined up to £1,000 in the Magistrates Court.
The second offence does require the prosecuting authority (usually the Local Authority) to demonstrate an element of culpability on the part of the parent. This offence is treated much more seriously by the Courts and a parent can be sentenced to a fine of up to £2500, or even to a term of imprisonment.
If a Local Authority takes the view that a child is not receiving a “suitable education” then it may consider issuing a School Attendance Order. This may be in cases where a parent, for example, has chosen to school the child at home. Any such order issued would ordinarily require a parent to register the child at a school. A failure to comply with this order may lead to prosecution and a criminal conviction.
Issues relating to a child’s education are sensitive, and understandably, overwhelmingly important to any parent. To find yourself facing prosecution in these circumstances can be very distressing. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to seek legal advice for an Education Act offence, be reassured that you are in the hands of specialists.
For more information about how we can assist you through advice or representation at Court, contact any one of our Magistrates Court team. Alternatively, click here and member of the team will contact you as soon as possible.
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