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All children in England must go back to school in September and parents face fines for non-attendance

Advice on how children will make 'full return' to school to be announced later this week

Kate Ng
Monday 29 June 2020 15:56 BST
Starmer says the government have been 'asleep at the wheel' on schools

Parents in England risk being fined if they do not send their children back to school when they reopen in September, the education secretary has warned.

Gavin Williamson said it will be “compulsory” for pupils to return to classes, and unless parents have a “good reason” for keeping children at home they will face financial penalties.

Speaking to Sky News, the minister said a detailed plan on how the government will ensure all children in England are back in classrooms in the autumn will be set out by the end of this week.

Mr Williamson’s remarks come after the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, accused the government of being “asleep at the wheel” on the issue of reopening schools and said there was a “lack of planning”.

“If you could put up Nightingale hospitals – a good thing to do – you can certainly put up temporary classrooms, you can certainly take over libraries, community centres,” Sir Keir said.

The education secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re going to take the opportunity to spell out exactly as to how we will see a full return for all children back into school before the end of this week.

“As I’m sure you’ll understand and appreciate at the moment, we’re consulting and talking with different people, whether it’s headteachers, whether it’s unions, whether it’s representative bodies.”

Boris Johnson also said the issue of schools reopening had been a “massive problem” and vowed to make school compulsory for all children in England from September.

The prime minister told The Mail on Sunday: “We need to get the kids back into school. I want all pupils back in school in September.”

Outside of the lockdown period, local councils can enforce school attendance through legal action, which includes fining each parent up to £60, rising to £120 each if not paid within 21 days.

When schools began to reopen in phases in early June, the government said parents who did not feel safe sending their children back to school would not face fines. Some students started returning to school at the start of the month.

About a third (34 per cent) of all Year 6 children attended schools on 18 June, up from 26 per cent on 11 June, the latest figures reveal.

Attendance was about a quarter (26 per cent) in Year 1, up from a fifth the previous week, and 29 per cent in reception, up from 22 per cent on 11 June.

Additional reporting by PA

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