One school in Essex has announced plans to fine parents for the child’s lateness, according to Schools Week.

Catherine Stalham, headteacher at Winter Gardens primary academy in Essex, announced last week that parents would be fined if their child was consistently late to school.

Parents have rebuffed the proposed fine, calling the plans “ridiculous”, while a teaching union called it a “worrying” and “inappropriate” policy.

The Department for Education (DfE) have said that on issues of children’s lateness to school, the law allows for schools to take enact measures such as fines. The DfE said:

“It is right that schools monitor patterns of lateness and address it where it becomes a concern. It is a matter for individual schools to decide when to close their register and to take action as needed, provided it is in line with the local authority’s code of conduct.”

Government policy on attendance and absences gives heads various legal powers to call on if a child misses schools without a good reason.

In the case of Winter Gardens, the school said children that were persistently late could be referred to the Missing Education and Child Employment Service run by the local authority, which could then fine parents for child’s lateness and issue fixed penalty notices.  Stalham commented:

“Parents have a legal duty to ensure their children attend school regularly and the vast majority recognise the importance of punctuality in ensuring pupils get the best possible education. We have a very clear attendance policy, which is in line with national guidelines, and will always work with families to improve any attendance issues in the first instance.”

Stalham also confirmed that her school would not collect any money from the fines, which would be kept by the local authority to cover admin and potential legal costs.

The fines, to be introduced later this year, will start at £60 and rise to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

If parents do not pay after 28 days they could be prosecuted and fined up to £2,500, or face a community order or a jail sentence of up to three months. They could also be ordered to attend parenting classes.