Prosecution for school truancy almost doubles

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Courts

Dozens of parents found themselves facing court action after their children notched up too many absences from school.

Figures released by West Sussex County Council under the Freedom of Information Act showed the number of prosecutions almost doubled between 2012/13 and 2014/15.

So far in 2014/15, 158 prosecutions have been made – 47 in Crawley and Horsham – compared to the 83 prosecutions recorded for the whole county in 2012/13.

Of the latest Crawley figures, 26 related to secondary school children and 21 to primary school. For the county as a whole, 100 prosecutions related to secondary school children and 58 to primary school children.

In 2013/14, 161 prosecutions were made for the whole county and 58 in the Crawley area. A spokesman for the county council said Fixed Penalty Notices of £60 could be charged to parents after their child had accrued 10 unauthorised absences.

If the fine was not paid within 21 days it was raised to £120. If that was not paid within seven days then court action could be taken.

The spokesman said the issue of attendance was one for the heads and governors of each school to address and refer to the council if necessary.

He added: “Schools in West Sussex take tackling absence seriously but how they do it can be different to each one and will reflect the community and area they serve.”

He added: “West Sussex County Council supports schools in securing regular attendance, to enable children to maximise their opportunities. Schools are expected to work with families to address poor attendance and encourage improvement through various interventions and strategies, including access to the Early Help Programme.

“Should these measures fail to bring about positive change in attendance levels, then the matter can be referred to the Local Authority to consider prosecution, in accordance with legislation.”