A councillor has blasted the government over plans to reintroduce fines for parents if they do not send their children back to school in September.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has revealed a return to school will be “compulsory” and families may face financial penalties if they keep their children at home – unless there is a “good reason” for the absence.

Independent Loughton councillor, Stephen Murray, has labelled the decision to resume the fines – suspended when children began returning to school following the coronavirus lockdown – “outrageous.”

Cllr Murray said: “As a local teacher I feel very strongly that parents or guardians need to be the final decision takers as regards the welfare of their own children. and for the government to threaten to fine those who decide to keep their children at home is just outrageous.”

The Epping Forest District councillor noted social distancing – even at a reduce 1 metre – is “almost impossible in state secondary schools” due to the sheer number of pupils and the size of classes, rooms and corridors.

Cllr Murray added: “By all means try and open as normal in September but in my opinion parents and guardians should have the final say over their own children's welfare and should not be bullied back by a threat of a government imposed fine.”

Mr Williamson confirmed the return of fines on LBC radio earlier this week.

He said: “It is going to be compulsory for children to return back to school unless there’s a very good reason, or a local spike where there have had to be local lockdowns.

“We do have to get back into compulsory education as part of that, obviously fines sit alongside that.

“Unless there is a good reason for the absence then we will be looking at the fact that we would be imposing fines on families if they are not sending their children back.”

Schools began welcoming pupils back on June 1, however many parents kept their children at home for fear of their safety.

The latest government figures show 34 per cent of all Year 6 children attended school on June 18, up from 26 per cent on June 11.

Attendance was 26 per cent in Year 1, up from a fifth the previous week, and 29 per cent in Reception, up from 22 per cent on June 11.

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