Docking benefits won't keep children in school

Submitted by Matthew on 14 October, 2015 - 11:00 Author: Gemma Short

Parents of children who are absent from school will have child benefit docked by £120 if they do not pay a fine within 28 days.

Local authorities can already take parents to court if their children are “truanting”; courts can fine parents £60, rising to £120 if the fine is not paid within 21 days. Larger fines, community or jail sentences are also handed down to “persistent offenders”.

These punishments already disproportionately affect poorer families. In April the National Union of Teachers’ conference passed policy against parental fines, including the demand that poorer families should not be penalised for taking their children on holiday during the cheaper term-time months. It called on holiday companies to stop hiking prices during the summer, and said that schools should take an appropriate response to requests for absences during term time.

The policy notes research that shows holidays during term time have little or no effect on overall educational success, and that holidays provide valuable experiences for children which should not be the reserve of families that can afford non term-time prices.

Persistent truancy is a different matter of course. However this is unlikely to be solved by docking child benefit, and is in fact likely to make the situation worse in the long run for students who are for whatever reason staying out of school, especially for those from poorer backgrounds.

The government seems to want to make the lives of children and their families worse, and hope that makes them act better!

Funding alternative education provision, more and better early intervention work, involving parents in the life of schools, and making children feel less like failures at school — these are more likely to involve children in school in a meaningful and beneficial way.