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Swindon school gets tough over AWOL pupils
A SCHOOL is taking a zero-tolerance stance towards parents who allow children to skip classes for trivial reasons, including taking holidays in term time.
Families at St Joseph’s Catholic College paid £5,750 in fines over the last academic year, the largest amount of any educational establishment in Swindon.
In total, 115 parents were issued with £50 penalties by Swindon Council.
The college’s tough stance has led to an ‘outstanding’ mark for attendance in its most recent Ofsted inspection.
The report said: “Attendance is excellent and students are aware of the need to attend college regularly in order to make progress in their learning.”
In the last academic year, attendance for Years 7 to 11 was 96.3 per cent and in the first term of this year the figure has risen to 96.6 per cent.
Principal Maureen Harries said: “Attendance is an incredibly important issue for us at St Joseph’s.
“Through our policies and structures we work with families to ensure their child is in college when they should be.
“Our parental support advisor is there to help families with any issues they may have that are impacting on their child’s ability to attend school, and tutors and our attendance officer monitors and addresses every absence. “
However Mrs Harries reiterated a tough approach would be taken in line with the Ocotal Way college’s ‘every school day counts’ policy.
She said: “Unauthorised absences, particularly for family holidays, do still occur in term time and I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise the point that missing days off school really does amount to lost learning.
“We follow the standard procedure on attendance, where the issuing of a penalty notice by Swindon Council is implemented for any unauthorised absence.
“Only in extreme cases, such as bereavement, can I make exceptions.
“As a college we recognise that we must continue to get this message out to parents and are doing so, for example via parents’ evenings and College newsletters.”
Isambard Community School in North Swindon had the next biggest total in the last academic year with 93 fines, followed by Drove Primary School with 47 and Even Swindon Primary School with 32.Ridgeway in Wroughton issued 20 and Churchfields Academy 19.
The vast majority of fines were issued for holidays during term time, and some schools are understood to have stricter policies than others.
The figures were released by the council after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Adver.
In total, 415 parents were issued with fines last year, totalling £20,750, compared with 453 between 2010 and 2011.