Action taken against more than 2,000 parents over school absences

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More than 2,000 parents were prosecuted or given penalty notices for failing to ensure their children attended school last year.

East Sussex County Council took action against 2,189 parents in 2014/15 – an increase of more than 500 cases compared to the previous year.

Figures released following a Freedom of Information request showed the 2015/16 school year had so far seen 98 parents either taken to court or given penalty notices.

A council spokesman explained legal action against parents was only sought after every other avenue of help and support had been exhausted.

Schools which had attempted to work with parents to improve attendance, but with no success, could call on the council’s Education Support, Behaviour and Attendance Service (ESBAS) for assistance.

A spokesman said: “When a referral is made to ESBAS a meeting is arranged with parents, child and school to agree a support plan and set targets for monitoring.”

He added: “Attendance is monitored over a 12 weeks period before a decision is made to proceed to a legal intervention.”

The Freedom of Information figures also showed there were currently 104 youngsters in East Sussex who were classed as Children Missing Education (CME), meaning they were not currently registered at a school.

Some 26 of them had been referred from schools in other areas but had not taken their school places; 14 were children whose parents had opted to home school but whose whereabouts were unknown and who were not deemed to be receiving a suitable education.

The parents of 18 children had refused their allocated school, and a further 46 moved to East Sussex but were without school places.

The Department for Education warned such children were at “significant risk” of underachieving, becoming the victims of abuse, and having no education, employment or training when they hit adult life.

The council spokesman said, once a child was identified as falling into the CME category, every effort was made to ensure an offer of suitable education was made.

He added: “It is a parent’s duty to ensure that any child, of compulsory school age, is receiving an efficient education. Where this does not happen then the local authority makes attempts to ensure this does take place.”