Will parents face fines for not sending children to school?
The proposal to reopen schools in June has left many concerned parents asking whether they would be fined for not sending children to school.
In Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on Sunday 10 May he made it clear that primary schools in England might start to reopen from 1 June at the earliest, depending on the number and spread of coronavirus infections. The aim is to get pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return in stages from that date as these year groups are seen as critical years in terms of a child’s development. He would also like to see those pupils in years 10 and 12 get some face time with teachers before the summer break as they prepare for their exams next year.
At present, it is not compulsory for key worker parents to send their children to school and there are no fines for those who have not taken up places they are entitled to fill. It is expected that this temporary arrangement – where usual sanctions do not apply – will continue for all parents of any year groups going back in England during the summer term. Meaning that if school’s reopen and parents choose not to send their eligible children, they should not be fined the usual £70 per child for not sending children to school. There are currently no plans for schools in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland to reopen before the end of the summer term.
Michael Gove appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 17 May and insisted that England’s schools are safe to reopen, but acknowledged that “you can never eliminate risk”. He said the key was to make schools safe with smaller classes and staggered arrivals. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also said on Saturday 16 May that the government’s approach was based on the “best scientific advice with children at the very heart of everything we do”.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.