A number of parents across Essex have contacted Southend News Network after they received £60 fines for not sending their children to school on a teacher training day – a top education official has blamed admin software for the error.
Marsha Sinq has three children at Kursaal Heights Primary Academy in Southend, and she spoke to our Chief Reporter earlier this morning after receiving a total of £180 in fines.
She said: ‘On Friday, with the new term still a few days away, I received three letters from the Essex School Attendance Enforcement Agency to say that my children were not going to be in attendance on Monday 5th September – a date that was in the future!’
‘I already knew that my kids would be at home on this day as it is a teacher training day, but the letters made it perfectly clear that I would be liable for the fines in advance.’
‘The wording shocked me as it acknowledged that the school would be closed. How many parents are going to get these letters and just pay up, no questions asked?’
‘I have already made the payment by debit card as the deadline was given was August 31st and I don’t want any nasty entries on my credit file. However, I intend to appeal the decision as it is unreasonable to expect children to attend school on a day when there are specific instructions for children not to attend school.’
Sir Miles Anshluss is the Non-Executive Executive Director of the ESAEA, and he admitted to our Chief Reporter that there was a ‘small chance’ that the letters may have been sent in error.
He said: ‘As far as we are aware, there may have been an error with our admin system after an ill-advised upgrade to Windows 10 in July. The computers in our Chelmsford office almost missed the deadline for the free upgrade, and so they may have been rushed through before we could check that the attendance enforcement system worked properly.’
‘We would advise any parents who receive the letter to pay in full as this is the only way that the appeals process can be triggered. We have a statutory 180-day window to address any errors and refunds, but if anyone is concerned they can always send their kids into school today and get a slip of paper to prove that they have been sent home because of teacher training.’
‘Technically, the children in these letters wouldn’t have been at school by default, so our software was only following logical instructions.’