From the Oxford Times of 12 October:
A mother has been given a £1,000 fine – the maximum penalty – for not sending her child to primary school in Abingdon ... after her six-year-old child missed almost 50 per cent of classes between February 19 and July 13 this year.
Barry Armstrong, Oxfordshire County Council’s manager for attendance and welfare said: ’This is not the first time we have brought court proceedings against parents who persistently fail to ensure their child attends school. In previous instances the penalty has been a spell in prison. If we are to continue to raise educational standards, we need the children to be at school. It is as simple as that. The law should be obeyed.’ …
Michael Taylor, headteacher of St Edmund’s Primary School – not the school that the six-year-old was attending – said: ‘I do feel we need to make a stand on this. Children’s education is suffering through absence from school. … I think this fine is just and necessary if we are to send out the right message.’
When we were based in North Oxford, we had various part-time voluntary workers, among them the Japanese wife of a Japanese DPhil student. Her daughter was going to a primary school in Oxford. This Japanese lady was a highly intelligent and very efficient person, and was concerned that her daughter learned very little at school. The little girl seemed to spend most of her time painting pictures, watching videos and going swimming. She was not unhappy, her mother said. Her daughter enjoyed doing all these things; it was just that she was not actually learning very much.
The mother had bought some books for home-teaching parents and made sure her daughter did some sums from them every evening, to make up for what she was not doing at school.
The little Japanese girl about whose life at school we were told was a few years older than the girl whose mother has been fined. It seems even less likely that a six-year-old was missing out on anything much in the way of gainful education when she stayed away from school.
Perhaps, for all one knows to the contrary, the girl was slightly precocious and was learning nothing at school on the days she attended, even if anything was being taught, because she was slightly in advance of her age group. In modern schools, a child would not have to be very remarkable to be in this position.
When I reached the school going age of five, the local primary school entreated my parents not to send me. There would be no way, they said, that they could explain to the other parents how it was that I could already do everything.