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Primary school announces plans to fine parents if their kids are late

A good move or a step too far?

Winter Garden Academy in Canvey Island, Essex, has announced plans to fine parents if their children are consistently late for school.

Writing in the primary school's December newsletter, headteacher Catherine Stalham explained: "Any children arriving after 9am will be marked as late on the register as from April 1. Continuous late comers may be issued with a fixed penalty notice."

The fine will work almost like a parking fine, as the penalty doubles if it hasn't been paid within 21 days, and any parent who refuses to pay could be prosecuted - or even jailed.

(Credit: Getty)

News of the fine has divided opinion - with parents and non-parents alike having their say. Commenting on Facebook, one person who was in favour of the fine said: "Totally agree with the school, it may give the consistent late parents a bit of a push in the morning. To consistently be late is no excuse... Get up earlier if you have to."

A couple of other people noted how the schools focus on punctuality helped prepare children for later in life when they have a job, while another added: "I live on a school road and pretty much every morning I see the same mums walking her kids in late when everyone else has gone. One walks along with her head in her phone. So yes, those parents should be fined."

However, some were fiercely opposed to the idea, with one person saying: "Totally disagree, I'm up with my son at 6:30 every morning. He has Autism and sometimes it is hard to even get him out the door."

Another said: "Not sure what fining achieves. It doesn't mean you will be on time if you have genuine reasons to be late. Why not help these parents, find out why they are late. Tackle the problem rather than just asking for money."

(Credit: Alamy)

Local councillor for Canvey Ray Howard defended the school, saying: "I can understand - inspectors take absenteeism very seriously and can mark a school down for it. Headteachers have an exceptionally hard time with this and need to maintain good attendance to protect the school."

Mr Howard then went on to reach out to parents who were not happy with the initiative, adding: "However, I believe under exceptional circumstances parents should not be punished. If a parent feels they are being unfairly prosecuted they should come to me as their county councillor."

The county councillor responsible for education, Ray Gooding, also defended the penalty scheme, citing child safety: "There are clear links between attendance and attainment, and every lesson really does count. The Missing Education and Child Employment Service works very closely with Essex schools to address unauthorised absences. Parents have a legal duty to ensure regular and punctual school attendance."

But it's not all bad news. The school has also started an initiative to reward good attendance, giving out certificates to children who have 95% and above attendance. This was also outlined in a school newsletter, where Ms Stalham wrote: "As a school, we have a target which is in line with the national average and we will be setting the children's targets at the same level as that of the school.

"As well as the termly certificates, if the children keep up the good attendance a badge will be given at the end of the year. We will follow the same targets and if the percentage remains the same at the end of the year, the children will receive their badges."

Do you agree with the idea of fining parents if their children are late for school? Let us know over on Facebook and Twitter.

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