14/08/2014 12:57 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Late For School? You Could Be Facing A £60 Fine

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Late for school fines

First it was financial penalties and even prison for parents taking children on holiday during school terms, now it seems we've moved onto fines for them not being in class on time.

Emerson Valley School, a juniors in Milton Keynes, has been in the news for threatening to fine parents £60 if they don't manage to get their children in for the start of the day.

In reality, whilst Emerson Valley's policy has been picked up on by the media, it's not the only primary with fines in its armoury for encouraging good and timely attendance (something Ofsted is hot on these days - it can count against schools in inspections if attendance is poor).

So is this a wise and fair move? Well, it's fine by me. I know we all have the odd, mightily stressful morning when we get stuck in the school run traffic jam from hell (yep, been there), or when one of our offspring needs an urgent and unfortunately long loo visit two minutes before you're due to leave (yep, tried that one too..."sorry miss we were late because I needed a...").

Of course there will be the occasional unexpected event which conspires against our usually successful efforts to get them to the school on time. But these fines are not about turning up a few minutes after the other children have lined up and trooped into class once or twice a term.

At Emerson Valley, according to the news reports, parents will only be fined if they are late 10 or more times across a 12 week term. This is designed to deal with a brand of persistent and quite disruptive lateness.

With a few exceptions where valid reasons make punctuality genuinely challenging on a regular basis (more on those in a minute...), this is surely about those mums and dads who simply can't get organised or can't be bothered to make it in for the allotted time, despite the rest of us managing it, even if it does involve much clock-watching, nagging and chivvying along of offspring.

Why does the odd missed minute or half hour matter some of you might be wondering? School teacher, Susie, explains: "It's very annoying when pupils turn up late. It takes a lot of effort each morning to settle the class down and ensure everyone is ready - either for marking the register, assembly, work, or whatever. There are sometimes tasks like collecting money for trips or homework books. All this admin takes time so it's very frustrating to have to go through it all over again for one late child - or even worse, two or three coming in at different times!"

She adds, "As a one-off from a certain child's family, you make allowances. If it's the same families again and again, then it becomes very irritating and distracts the other children whose parents have got them in at the correct time."

As well as lateness disrupting the start of the school day and meaning pupils miss important announcements and teaching time (indeed being 15 minutes late daily equates to 10 missed days over the whole academic year), doesn't it also show a certain disrespect for the school's rules and procedures? Doesn't it leave children thinking they can rock up for things whenever they like – not exactly a great example to set for their adult, working lives is it?

Of course there need to be exceptions and flexibility to accommodate the reasons why some families will, through no fault of their own, struggle to make it to school on time. Perhaps those who've ended up, not by choice, with two young children at different primaries who are both supposed to arrive at 8.50, despite there being a mile or several between them. If sending them to a breakfast club isn't feasible, it makes it pretty impossible to be in two places at once for drop off. But if these, or other difficult circumstances exist, such as having a family member who is seriously ill, a recent bereavement, struggling with a disabled sibling's needs, then surely a headteacher can take that into account and not impose a fine.

For others – for the 'can't be bovvered to get up in the morning' brigade - maybe the threat of penalties will be just the thing to encourage them out of bed and into ensuring their kids make it in before, not after, the school day starts.

What do you think?

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