Not penalising school age children for climate change strike action
Proposed by Councillor Henwood
Non-group member motion
Students or young people of compulsory school age who strike from school relating to climate change should not be penalised for not attending school, or their parents or guardians face fines for non-authorised attendance.
Secondly, absence from school with parental or guardian consent should be marked in school registers as ‘authorised non-school activity’.
Schools are legally required to maintain an attendance register, and they must tell the local authority about pupils who are regularly absent or have missed at least 10 school days without the school’s authority. Some people refer to this system as the 10 yellow card rule.
Schools and local authorities have the legal right to take action for non-attendance. Any student registered with a school can miss school in very restricted circumstances: medical grounds, religious reasons, and transport issues if the LEA have a legally defined circumstance where they have to provide transport.
Reasons for authorised absence from school may include with pre-authorisation – family holidays, funerals, interviews. Currently many schools record student strike action as ‘unauthorised’. If permission is not granted and absence recorded as unauthorised, the parents can be prosecuted.
If a child of compulsory school age who is on the admissions register is found in a public place during school hours, the parents can be prosecuted. On conviction, a fine of up to £1,000 can be imposed on the parents.
The local authority can prosecute a parent for their child’s non-attendance at school, and this does not have to be preceded by a fixed penalty notice.
If a prosecution is successful, the court can order a Parenting Order, supervised by either a responsible person at the school or the local authority. A Parenting Order requires parents to attend parenting classes to support them in improving the child’s behaviour, and also requires them to comply with other conditions. Breaching such an order can lead to a fine.
An alternative is issuance of fixed penalty notices by the local authority, police officers or head teachers to the parents/guardians of children who have irregular school attendance. The penalty is a £60 for each instance, rising to £120 if paid after 21 days but before 28 days. As many schools record strike action as unauthorised attendance, this process could be applied to the parents or guardians of school children seeking strike action for climate change.
Many students in Oxford indeed across the globe are going on strike to draw attention to the climate emergency. We have a collective responsibility to change both as individuals and as members of groups and communities. The actions of our students should be celebrated and indeed lessons from young people learnt urgently.
Council resolves to ask the Leader to
1. write to our two city MP’s, requesting this motion be presented to parliament,
2. write to OFSTED and the local education authority to facilitate changes in recording attendance of young people in compulsory education.
3. write to the portfolio holder for education and the leader of the County Council commending this motion.
This motion was not taken as the time allowed for debate had finished.