Luton tops the country in fines for children missing school

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There were 97 fines per 1,000 pupils in past year

Luton has the highest rates of fines for children missing school in England an investigation has found.

In the past year, there were 97 fines issued per 1,000 pupils in the town, the highest in the country a BBC Panorama investigation found.

The second worst was Bolton with 89 per 1,000 issued.

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Luton has the highest rate of fines for youngsters not attending schoolsLuton has the highest rate of fines for youngsters not attending schools
Luton has the highest rate of fines for youngsters not attending schools

Fines for youngsters missing school start at £60 but can rise if not paid promptly. Some areas such as Warrington and City of London councils said they had not issued any fines in the past year.

Children's Commissioner for England, Rachel de Souza, a former Luton headteacher, says children and their parents - especially those with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) - must have "nothing to fear" when seeking support for their particular reasons for being absent.

A spokesman for Luton Council said: “We recognise the link between school absenteeism and challenging social issues and as part of our aim to tackle poverty by 2040, we are doing all we can to reduce it. Penalty notices have a significant positive effect on improving attendance levels and our figures reflect this. In the latest published figures, Luton had the highest overall attendance in the East of England, alongside Hertfordshire and Bedford and the second best persistent absence figures after Hertfordshire.

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“We work with schools and education leaders and enforcement measures are always used as a last resort. Good attendance is reflected in positive learning outcomes for children and improved emotional and social outcomes.

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“Measures include education welfare officers meeting parents who have taken children out to explain the impact of absenteeism on their progress and engaging with all parents to encourage good attendance.

“The council is not responsible for the authorising or coding of absence; this is granted at a Head Teachers discretion.

“The priority for schools and the council is to encourage pupils to take full advantage of the opportunities education provides. To that end the council provides a service to schools to help them support children who find attendance difficult.

“The penalty notice thresholds for absence are set by the local authority using current legislation. Failure to pay a fine will result in a court prosecution. Parents or guardians are only issued a fine once in an academic year.”