Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states: The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable –
(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have; either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Failure to do so may result in prosecution under section 444 of the Education Act 1996, which if convicted could result in a maximum fine of £2,500 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 51 weeks.
Local Authorities have a duty to enforce that responsibility and in Buckinghamshire this is exercised through the Education Welfare Specialist Unit.
Education welfare specialist unit
The Education Welfare Specialist Unit is a small team of dedicated professionals who work with schools, young people and their families to address issues of irregular attendance.
We are a Traded Service. This means that Schools have to pay for our services. Schools are able to purchase hours and choose how they would like to use them, for example they may choose to use some of their hours for a Late Gate where an Education Welfare Officer would speak to parents and children arriving late, about the impact this can have on the young person and their attendance. They may opt to use the hours for holding Parenting Contract Meetings. These meetings are held to discuss the issues that may be impacting on a young person’s attendance and looking for solutions or signposting on to more appropriate agencies.
There is also the option of a “Pay as You Go” service. A school that has very few attendance issues or who want a specific piece of work e.g. Truancy Sweep or training delivered may opt for this.
A full list of services that may be purchased are available on the Traded Services website;
Schools that choose not to purchase our services are responsible for addressing attendance issues and holding meetings with young people and parents themselves. When all avenues of support are exhausted and the case has reached Statutory level the school may refer to the Education Welfare Specialist Unit for intervention.
The Education Welfare Specialist Unit may also issue Penalty Notices in cases of unauthorised absence, holidays or truancy. Schools, the Police and neighbouring authorities may request Penalty Notices to be issued.
We can also issue School Attendance Orders (SAO) and Education Supervision Orders (ESO). School Attendance Orders may be issued to direct a parent to send their child to a specified school and are used when a pupil is not on roll at any school. We may apply for an Education Supervision Order before prosecuting parents.