Parents could be fined for not sending children back to school as ‘last resort’, says minister

Parents could be fined for not sending children back to school as 'last resort', says minister

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Parents could be fined as a “last resort” if they refuse to send their children back to school, an education minister has warned.

Nick Gibb said teachers should try to “reassure” parents of the need to send their children back to school but said there was a “moral imperative” to do so.

Asked whether fines were a possibility for parents who continued to resist, he told the BBC: “Fines are something that headteachers are very reluctant to use, they only use them as a last resort.”

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Mr Gibb said that “where there are families that have particular concerns they should discuss them with the headteachers”.

When it was suggested that such discussions could still result in parents not being reassured, the minister said this did not change the fact that children would have to attend school.

He added: “It is important, it is a moral imperative that young people are back in schools.”

In June, education secretary Gavin Williamson specifically warned that fines were an option, stating: “Unless there’s a good reason for absence… we’d be imposing fines on families.”

“We do have to get back into compulsory education and obviously fines sit alongside as part of that,” he said.

Under the government’s school absence fines system, councils can issue parents with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which rises to £120 if it isn’t paid within 21 days.

If this on-the-spot fine isn’t paid within 28 days parents be prosecuted and face a further fine of £2,500 and even a prison sentence of three months, plus a parenting order.

Schools minister Nick Gibb (BBC Breakfast)

Classes are set to return in September after a long hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak. Boris Johnson said overnight that it was “vitally important” for pupils to return and that the life chances of a generation were at stake.

The prime minister argued that “it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health… to be away from school any longer”.

Schools in Northern Ireland are returning Monday, while some schools in Scotland have already gone back. The term in England and Wales starts in September.

Over the weekend chief medical officer Chris Witty said that “the chances of children dying from Covid-19 are incredibly small” and that “many more are likely to be harmed by not going than harmed by going”.

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