Sickness fines denied by Friday Bridge head

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A school headteacher has denied that parents will be fined if their children are off sick, following the launch of two petitions.

Jayne Williams, headteacher of Friday Bridge Primary School, said penalty notices will not be issued for children who are absent with genuine illnesses following claims that mums and dads will be fined if their child has as little as one day off poorly.

Friday Bridge School after school club Rolling Moans performance by pupils of KS 2  with head teacher Jayne Williams and Toby Rideout ENGANL00120120911170254

Friday Bridge School after school club Rolling Moans performance by pupils of KS 2 with head teacher Jayne Williams and Toby Rideout ENGANL00120120911170254

Around 20 parents have signed a new petition against fines for non-attendance due to illness, and a second petition for fines issued for taking children on holiday during term-time.

The action comes in the wake of a recent review of the Wisbech Schools’ Partnership’s Attendance Policy.

The petition against fines for illnesses claims children’s health is being put at risk in order for the school to achieve a 100 per cent attendance record.

It said: “Carrying out these policies that have been put in place, such extreme measures as fines and legal action if your child has time off, is making parents hesitant in making the correct decision when their child is ill and should stay at home or go to the doctors. This is purely to achieve a 100 per cent attendance, which is unrealistic. No child is a robot, every child gets ill.”

In relation to proving illnesses, it adds: “It seems you need to obtain a doctor’s letter, but where does this leave you when your child only has one day to six days off? You would be charged £20 by the doctors (for a sick note).”

The petition against holiday fines said the penalty charge of £60 per parent, per child, per week, is “unreasonable” and should be “quashed or dramatically reduced”.

It says most parents can’t afford to take their children on holiday during half-term, and adds: “These holidays are educational, learning new cultures, and families spend crucial time together.”

In a response from the school, Mrs Williams said: “We do not issue penalty notices for children who are off school as a result of genuine illness.

“Penalty notices may be issued if a child has an attendance rate of 85 per cent or less over the previous four-week period and the absence has been unauthorised. In common with the majority of schools across Cambridgeshire, we do not authorise term-time holidays.

“The decision to issue a penalty notice is taken by the Penalty Notices team in line with Local Authority and Department for Education guidelines. The Wisbech Schools’ Partnership’s Attendance Policy has recently been reviewed and updated and is available on our school website.”