West Norfolk parents given fine warning before lockdown
Parents who do not send their children into school during the next national lockdown will face fines, the Department for Education has confirmed.
England will be subject to a fresh national lockdown from Thursday, lasting until December 2, prime minister Boris Johnson has said.
But, unlike the first lockdown which began on March 23, schools, colleges and universities will stay open – with fines for the parents of non-attending pupils in place.
The news comes as the National Education Union (NEU) warned that keeping educational settings open is an unsafe “half-measure” and called for them to close to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.
Mike Smith-Clare, Norfolk Labour’s spokesman for children, said: “So many parents are in a quandary as what to do for the best. Their immediate concern will be the health and well-being of their children and families.
“This is totally acceptable – such worries should be met by support rather than punitive threats.”
He added: “Yet again education is being vilified – with parents, teachers and children being held to account by a government apparently ignorant of its own continual failings.”
John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We’re very grateful for all those working across education for the huge efforts they continue to make to support children’s learning in these difficult times.
“The Department for Education expects schools to work with families and the local authority to secure regular school attendance for all pupils in line with statutory requirements.
“We recommend schools take a balanced approach when dealing with attendance matters, recognising the impact that Covid-19 may have had on both the pupil and the wider family.”
“We continue to provide advice and support, including visiting some schools to look at the measures that they have put in place to help reduce the spread of any infection.”
A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “We are prioritising children’s and young people’s education and wellbeing, by keeping nurseries, schools, colleges and universities open.
“The Chief and Deputy Chief Medical Officers have highlighted the risks of not being in education on their development and mental health.”
She added: “Schools should work with families to ensure children are attending full time.
“As usual, fines will sit alongside this, but only as a last resort and where there is no valid reason for absence.“