Be tougher on truancy at Sheffield primary schools

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Tougher fixed penalty fines for parents who take their children out of school during term time could cut truancy figures in Sheffield primaries, a leading headteacher believes.

New figures have revealed the city’s primary attendance records are the worst in the region, with more than five per cent of pupils - more than 1,800 in all - classed as persistent absentees.

The problem is even evident among four-year-olds with more than seven per cent of class sessions being missed during last year’s autumn and spring terms, the second worst regional record.

Dina Martin, head at Firs Hill Primary in Pitsmoor, said the city seemed to be making little progress in resolving the issue.

“Instant penalties for parents taking term time holidays would be one step forward - but I suspect many parents would still pay a £120 fine to get the potential savings available,” she said.

“Another factor is that parents are too protective of their children - they keep them off the minute they hear there’s an illness going around school, particularly younger children.

“There needs to be more pressure on parents on this. We rarely have full blown epidemics - I believe if a child is well, it should be in school.”

Firs Hill’s own attendance record is broadly in line with the city average, and Mrs Martin said good attendance was a life skill to be learned like any other.

“If when you leave you want to keep your job, you have to come into work and not be late - and that is a good habit that needs to be learned at school.”

Mrs Martin said she was also not greatly in favour of attendance reward schemes, common in many schools.