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Parents in Cornwall could face fines if they don't send their children back to school

Parents in Cornwall could face fines if they don't send their children back to school

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:31am 24th July 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Parents could be fined if they decide not to send their children back to school in September due to fears about coronavirus.

Schools have not been fully open since March after they closed to most pupils during lockdown with just children of key workers and vulnerable children going in.

That later changed with schools having children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 allowed to attend as well as students in Years 10 and 12.

However the Government said these limited openings were not compulsory and that parents could choose whether to send their children to school.

The Government has indicated that in September  it hopes that all children of school age will be back in the classroom.

This week a member of the public asked Cornwall Council’s Cabinet whether it would be fining parents if they chose not to send their children back to school.

“As there is minimal scientific evidence of the effects of Covid-19 on children, will the council confirm it will not prosecute parents, or support sanctions by schools for non-attendance during the pandemic to empower parents to protect their children and vulnerable family members without the threat of additional financial burdens?”

Lisa Laity, from Redruth

school corridor

Explaining why she asked the question Lisa said:

“My sister has a child at primary school and she and her husband work full time. She is struggling to manage childcare and work, and while a return to school for her child would make life far easier to manage and be good for her child educationally and socially she is extremely worried as there are several people in the immediate family who are classed in the shielding category.

“She is concerned that her son is missing education and also missing his friends but would like to feel she is able to protect her child and family and respond to the situation as it develops without the threat of attendance measures or fines over the winter.

“She feels that if her son goes back to school they will not be able to see any of the shielding family members or those in their households, which includes my own, safely until the pandemic is over which will have a huge impact on her and her child.

“She along with myself feel that parents should be allowed to make their own judgement on the risk to their families as the situation goes on, when there are so many unknowns to consider and the situation changes constantly. The Government has set a 96% attendance target for schools which places undue pressure on schools and parents, when there is a threat to health, indeed life involved.”

Lisa Laity, from Redruth

Sally Hawken, Cabinet member for children, said she had spoken to a number of parents who were “desperate for their children to be back at school but are very anxious about this”.

“It is important for all children to attend schools and other settings to minimise the impact of the pandemic on education.”

Sally Hawken, Cabinet member for children

back to school

Cllr Hawken said school attendance would be compulsory in the autumn term adding: “From September 2020 the usual rules will apply.”

She said parents would have a responsibility to make sure that their children attend school and schools would have a responsibility to record attendance.

If necessary she said the council would take action against parents who did not send their children to school but stressed that any fines would be a last resort.

And she added: “Cornwall Council will continue to communicate clearly expectations around school attendance.”

She said the council would work with schools to help create plans for those who needed to help to return to school, including working with parents and children.

“No school or local authority wishes to take legal action and Cornwall Council will work with schools and parents and encourage children to attend school.

“Each case will be considered on an individual basis and Cornwall Council will offer all available support where required.”

Sally Hawken, Cabinet member for children

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