Prime Minister Boris Johnson has led calls for parents to send their children back to class, with the UK’s chief medical officers saying that youngsters are more at risk of long-term harm if they do not attend school than if they return.
School standards minister Nick Gibb said there was a ‘moral imperative’ for children to attend classes when they resume next month.
He acknowledged that some parents would still have concerns but stressed that education was compulsory and fines could be used if necessary.
“Fines for non-attendance have always been a last resort for headteachers and schools,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
“What matters is that young people are attending school.
“We live in a country where education is compulsory and I think parents can be reassured that the measures that schools are taking to make sure that we minimise the risk of the transmission of the virus are very effective.”
Local authorities can fine parents £120 – cut to £60 if paid within 21 days – over a child’s absence from school, with the threat of prosecution if they fail to pay.
Mr Gibb said if parents had concerns they should be able to discuss them with headteachers.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green accused the Government of being ‘asleep at the wheel’ and criticised the ‘one-size-fits-all’ guidance given to schools.