The Norfolk schools which took most parents to court over child's truancy
PUBLISHED: 13:03 12 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:30 12 December 2019
Angela Sharpe Photography
Three Norfolk schools took more than 20 parents to court over their child's absence last year, figures reveal.
Data from Norfolk County Council, which brings prosecutions for unauthorised absence on behalf of schools, shows it prosecuted up to 924 parents over absences in 157 schools in the 2018/19 academic year.
City Academy Norwich prosecuted the most parents - 48 - over pupils missing school, followed by King Edward VII Academy in King's Lynn with 24 and Caister Academy with 23.
Other high totals came from Hethersett Academy, Ormiston Venture Academy in Gorleston and City of Norwich School, which prosecuted 20, 19 and 17 parents respectively.
The highest numbers of parents prosecuted by a primary school were at Great Yarmouth Primary Academy and Little Snoring Primary School, with 14 apiece.
Of the schools which brought prosecutions, 104 brought fewer than five - although their exact totals were withheld for privacy reasons.
While the local authority prosecutes parents, it is up to schools how they choose to deal with families whose children are absent without permission or explanation.
Fines are generally issued first - if these go unpaid, the school may progress to prosecution.
Paul Collin, headteacher at City Academy Norwich, said he and senior leaders had worked hard to improve the school - including attendance - since he took the helm a year ago.
He said: "Working alongside all parents and carers we support our young people to achieve and attend school.
"Our systems and processes are designed to work to ensure all young people have the very best opportunities they can, allowing every child the same chance.
"We are proud that the academy has developed so rapidly over a short period of time, and thank all of our parents and carers for their continued support in realising the vision for City Academy Norwich to be one of the best schools in Norwich to attend as a young person."
A spokesman for the Inspiration Trust, which runs Great Yarmouth Primary Academy and Hethersett Academy, said: "The Inspiration Trust and its schools are dedicated to ensuring pupils achieve their full potential. One of the most important factors in achieving this is regular attendance.
"We work really hard with parents to make sure absenteeism is kept to an absolute minimum. There are multiple steps we take to achieve this - which are listed in our attendance policy. Prosecution is a last resort."
An Ormiston Academies Trust spokesman said: "We work very hard with pupils to ensure they attend and understand the importance of coming to school.
"There are cases where we need to take further action but this is always done with the pupil's best interests at heart. The vast majority of students and families support this and achieve highly as a result."
St George's Primary School in Great Yarmouth brought 11 prosecutions in 2018/19, one of the highest numbers among primaries.
Headteacher Mel Fearns said: "We believe children should be in school when the school is open. We have done a lot of data analysis of children who do not achieve their potential and it relates very strongly to their attendance.
"It is one of the things that I stress to every single parent before their child starts with us.
"We support parents with attendance, but tell them there are consequences if it falls below our expectations.
"We also have a huge pastoral team which meets with parents around attendance and before we get to prosecution level there are support meetings offered to parents."
Absence data for previous years shows family holidays are the most common kind of unauthorised school absence in Norfolk.
Ms Fearns said some parents - particularly at places such as St George's where many families are on low incomes - were willing to risk a fine for unauthorised absence for a holiday in term time to bring down the overall cost of the trip.
She added: "Schools are in a difficult position with authorisation and non-authorisation - we have a blanket policy of non-authorisation except in exceptional circumstances."