Secondary school in 'snooping' row after sending staff to check on bins and cars at absent pupils' homes

7 March 2024, 07:29 | Updated: 7 March 2024, 07:47

A school has been accused of snooping on absent pupils
A school has been accused of snooping on absent pupils. Picture: Google Maps/Social media

By Emma Soteriou

A school has sent staff to "snoop" on the homes of absent pupils to catch out families on term-time holidays.

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Attendance staff at Astrea Academy Woodfields in Doncaster are carrying out the home checks, which include watching bins and cars, to work out if students are taking unauthorised absences.

Head teacher David Scales said they are being carried out “because we care and because we want our students to be in school”.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Scales said: "What parents are doing is they are saying it’s an illness but actually the car is now no longer in the drive, the bins are no longer moving around the house and there’s no activity in the house over a few days.

"So we are putting this down as an unauthorised holiday and we are issuing a fine."

It comes amid concerns over growing numbers of children missing school.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan last week announced that from September, fines for school absences would increase, with the initial fine going from £60 to £80 and later fines going from £120 to £160.

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Mr Scales told parents that it is important for children to be at school so they can "learn, but then earn, later in life".

In a message to them, he said: "We don’t miss a second. Every single second is well-used here in this school. We don’t show videos. We don’t waste time.

"So therefore it’s important that every moment and every day a child is engaged in learning in school. 

"So let’s engage with school. Let’s work with us so that we can succeed, and we can go to university or a real alternative."

The video has seen a backlash online, with one person saying: "This is why kids and parents are fed up with schools, they have become a breeding ground for over the top discipline and I can see why so many parents are opting to home school their kids.

"Schools should be a welcoming place to come to not one of fear and all you are doing is making kids fear going to school and being off from school for legitimate reasons."

Another person said: "Disgraceful. I can see why there is a growth in home schooling."

A third person said: "This is really quite disturbed behaviour, and a disturbed way to talk about a learning environment."

The National Education Union’s Doncaster branch and district secretary, Fiona Campbell, said: "Lots of schools locally are experiencing difficulties with challenging attendance figures.

"Other schools though are not resorting to invasive snooping tactics, and many recognise the difficulties parents might face in trying to arrange valuable family time together."

A Department for Education spokesman said it promoted a "support-first approach" to getting pupils back in school.

They added: "Where appropriate, this could include home visits and door-knocking services."

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