THE number of Nottinghamshire parents appearing in court because their children have been repeatedly absent from school has halved in a year.
Last year, 121 parents were given a summons, down from 244 in the 2010-11 academic year and 262 in 2009-10. As a result, total fines have fallen by almost a half since 2009-10 and the number of parents given a summons to court is down from 262 to 161 in a similar period. The dramatic fall in court action far exceeds the reduction in truancy in Notts schools
Parents are only taken to court as a last resort, and Nottinghamshire County Council says this is happening less often, because problems are being resolved earlier.
The county council is working more closely with troubled families, including those where children don’t attend school as well as those involved in crime and anti-social behaviour.
County council staff speaks with families and find ways of resolving issues, rather than immediately issuing court papers.
Coun Philip Owen, committee chairman for children and young people’s services, said: “We don’t want to take people to court. That is our last step. We are working much closer with families that have had issues with non-attendance at school and therefore we have not had to resort to court action quite as frequently.
“I think that these figures justify the approach we have been taking.”
As well as the total number of summons issued, the total fines handed out have also fallen, from £24,720 in 2009-10 to £13,227 last year. However the highest fines handed out at court have gone up – from £525 to £1,065 – during the same period.
Coun Owen said: “Courts are taking the issue more seriously. This is demonstrated by the level of the fines that are being handed out.”
Department for Education figures also show pupil absence rates are falling. In the autumn term of 2011 – the most recent figures available – 0.9 per cent of half days in Nottinghamshire schools were missed through unauthorised absence.
This was compared with 1.24 per cent in the same term in 2010-11 and 1.13 per cent in 2009-10.
Coun Owen added: “I am pleased with the figures. But we want to continue to work to drive them down. If children don’t attend school then they are not learning. From a young age this can put them at a serious disadvantage and have a knock-on effect in their later life.
‘’We aren’t realistically ever going to be in a situation where we have 100 per cent attendance, especially when you consider illnesses that children can get. But we want to strive to get as close as possible to it.”