PARENTS in England could be fined if they do not send their children back to school in September, the education secretary has warned.
Gavin Williamson said yesterday that a return to school will be ‘compulsory’.
But headteachers and unions urged against rushing to reintroduce fines as they say schools will need to rebuild confidence among families first.
Mr Williamson told LBC: ‘It is going to be compulsory for children to return back to school unless there’s a very good reason, or a local spike.
‘We do have to get back into compulsory education. As part of that, obviously, fines sit alongside.’
His remarks came as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government was ‘asleep at the wheel’ on schools.
He told Sky News: ‘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.’
Some children went back to school this month ahead of a full reopening in September. Figures show 34 per cent of pupils in Year 6, 26 per cent in Year 1 and 29 per cent in reception were in classes on June 18.
Parents keeping children at home do not currently face fines.
Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, has called for a ‘period of grace’ before penalising parents. And Patrick Roach, of the NASUWT teaching union, added: ‘Ministers should think carefully before issuing warnings to parents and when the government has not yet explained how it plans to reopen schools safely.’
Return of benefits penalties criticised as ‘heartless’
MINISTERS have been accused of a ‘heartless’ decision to reopen Jobcentres and end the freeze on penalties faced by claimants who miss appointments. Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said it is ‘important’ they open but Labour’s shadow spokesman Jonathan Reynolds called for an extension to the freeze. ‘Threatening to reduce people’s financial support is untenable,’ he said. Liberal Democrat Layla Moran called it ‘an utterly heartless decision’.
■ SCOTTISH first minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out quarantining visitors from England. Although Ms Sturgeon said she currently has no plans to make travellers from elsewhere in the UK isolate, she said she will consider it ‘if required from a public health perspective’. She accused the government of not appearing to be ‘trying to eliminate the virus’, adding: ‘We must be on our guard.’