School to charge parents for GCSE exams if children skip lessons

Since informing parents of the new consequences of their children skipping classes, attendance has improved at Colchester Academy school

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The Independent Online

A school in Essex is to force parents to pay for their children’s GCSE exams if pupils miss too many classes. 

Colchester Academy Principle, Fiona Pierson, brought in the initiative in an attempt to stop truancy at the school.  

If a pupil is absent for more than 10 per cent the timetable for one subject – equivalent to 20 lessons in a year – their parents will be asked to pay £65 for each exam in that subject. 

The academy school was rated as “requiring improvement” in its last Ofsted report, with concerns raised over a lack of progress being made with GCSEs results.

But since sending out a letter to families warning them of the new attendance expectations, Ms Pierson said Colchester Academy had seen a considerable improvement.

“Since sending this letter out we have seen an improvement in Year 11 attendance of 1.1 per cent,” she said.

“In addition, the number of students who have an attendance figure below 90 per cent has decreased by over half.

“Both of these improvements will have a significant impact on the successes these young people will experience in the future and that is my aim.”

Writing to parents, Ms Pierson explained she was not prepared to enter students for exams – a cost for schools - if they have not shown enough commitment to their learning.

However she also noted that “exceptional circumstances where there may be medical evidence to explain the level of absence” would make parents exempt of penalties.

She said: “I am extremely sympathetic to student needs and there are some who have an attendance figure below this 90 per cent mark who will not be asked for a financial contribution.

“However, there is now a small minority of parents who will be approached. I have not received any resistance from parents, I think the approach has been measured.”

In 2015, a number of schools in England introduced fines of £60 for parents whose children were recurrently late.

The penalty can be doubled if not paid within 21 days, and parents who refuse to pay the fine can be prosecuted.