York parents fined £1800 following prolonged unauthorised school absences

Three York parents have been handed court fines this month after City of York Council took action following their children’s poor attendance at school.

The prosecution was heard by York Magistrates and followed numerous attempts by the authority and schools to engage the parents to give the children the education to which they are entitled.

In all cases, the parents had failed to provide the schools with acceptable reasons for much of their children’s absence and the schools had therefore marked the absence as unauthorised.

The prosecuted parents had, prior to court, failed to engage with the schools and local authority to support their children’s attendance and had also been issued with a fine as an alternative to prosecution. They had not paid it, prompting the council to prosecute.

All three parents were ordered to pay fines ranging between £131 to £660.

Maxine Squire, Assistant Director of Education and Skills at City of York Council, said: “We want all children to receive a great education and benefit from the rich opportunities and high quality of education that are provided by our schools, and working with families and schools to promote and maintain good attendance is vital in achieving this.

“We will always attempt to engage with parents to avoid further loss of a child’s education before we prosecute. This is used as last resort in order to ensure that children receive the education to which they are entitled.”

Residents encouraged to nominate exceptional young people of York for Shine awards

City of York Council is seeking nominations for incredible young people and inspirational adults ahead of the Lord Mayor of York’s Shine Awards.

The annual awards will be held on 11 February 2020 at Vale of York Academy and will celebrate exceptional young people of all ages, from age five to aged 18.

The Shine Awards honour those who have helped others or contributed to their community or school in a positive way, whether as a volunteer or as an inspiration to others.

Nominations categories include arts, sport, voice and participation, young volunteer and community champion, with potential new categories created, depending on the submissions.

Nominees are also being taken for the Ann Mckeown Award for Excellence and Inspirational Work with children and young people, for adults aged over 18. In memory of Ann McKeown, former York Head Teacher and supporter of the Lord Mayor’s Shine Awards.

Adults submitted for the award may include inspirational teachers, youth workers or volunteers who have gone above and beyond to improve the lives of children and young people.

To receive or submit application forms, please email tim.waudby@york.gov.uk by Friday 20 December 2019. Nominations can also be made through staff or professionals that hold contact details of the young person.

The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Janet Looker said: “York’s community is incredibly charitable and inspiring, and I look forward to honouring the young people who have made a real difference to others and the city.

“I would like to encourage residents to nominate someone they know who has had a positive impact on the community, and deserves to be recognised and thanked for their contribution.”

What’s on in York: Fairietold

Acomb Explore Library

October 29th @ 10:00 am – 10:45 am

 £4

Think you know your fairytales? Think again.

Deep in the heart of the forest, you may come across the storytellers. Cross their palm with silver and be transported into a world beyond your own. Things might seem familiar but don’t be deceived – spooky fun lurks around every corner!
Twisting immersive storytelling with puppetry and live folk-music, Hoglets will bring you traditional fairytales retold. Perfect for a spooky family Halloween.

£4 per person. Under 2s free with a paying adult. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets can be bought in person at any Explore York Library or by ringing York Explore 01904 552828, Acomb Explore 01904 552651 or Tang Hall Explore 01904 552655

Deadline for secondary school applications nears

Parents of children currently in Year 6 are reminded that applications for secondary schools places for September 2020 should be made before midnight on Thursday 31 October.

For pupils in Year 6 – the last year of primary school – parents and carers can apply for a maximum of five schools and City of York Council recommends that at least one preference should be the catchment school

Applications can be made online at www.york.gov.uk/schooladmissions.

All details and answers to frequently asked questions can be found at www.york.gov.uk/guideforparents. This guide contains information on school admissions and appeals processes as well as information on admissions statistics, oversubscription criteria and other information for parents and carers.

For more detailed information, please email: education@york.gov.uk or call 01904 551 554.

“Last year, 91.5% per cent of pupils in the secondary school admission round secured their first preference. Our staff have worked hard to ensure that our schools have enough places for all applicants and we will let students know about their allocated school on National Offer Day on 2 March next year”.

York playgrounds to get overdue refurbishment

…but there is a catch

The York council plans a £250,000 make-over of playgrounds in York. Their plans will be discussed at a meeting next week. The initiative is welcome, but the timetable produced means that improvements in our parks will not be evident until late next year.

Many of York’s playgrounds are poorly maintained with litter, weeds and dog fouling common problems

Standards in many parks and playgrounds have declined in recent years. They have been an easy target for Council expenditure cuts. As a result, it has been left to volunteers to undertake minor refurbishment work while items of broken equipment have often remained unusable for months on end.

The Liberal Democrats – who are now part of the leadership of the Council – advocated for many years that at least one piece of equipment at each major playground should be renewed each year. This would have ensured that there was something novel to engage children’s interest on a regular basis while avoiding the whole-scale decline, and eventual expensive renewal, of complete play areas.  This approach seems set to be abandoned by the new Council leadership.

We agree with the report, which has been written by officials, when it says “Whilst the number and geographical spread of equipped playgrounds is therefore generally good, their play value is more varied. This reflects their age and sporadic local and national investment that has been available”.

The report promises an “audit” of all playgrounds with a view to identifying “urgent investment needs e.g. replacement swings, seats, surfacing repairs”. The budget for this work will be £150,000. The report lists the qualifying play areas but omits some such as the one  in Dickson Park on Tedder Road.

More controversial, is an allocation of £100,000 as a “challenge fund” for larger refurbishment schemes. One feature of these is that matching funding will be expected from parishes or social housing providers. In theory the fund will be available in non parished areas but the examples of fund raising quoted in the report (Poppleton, West Bank Park) refer to typical “Middle England” neighbourhoods where fund raising for new amenities is relatively easy.

It’s potentially bad news for areas like Westfield (the statistically poorest part of the City) which also has a high proportion of under 16’s in its population

The area has suffered badly as a result of recent Council decisions which have seen the removal of open spaces, sports facilities and the multi user games area at Kingsway West and Lowfields.

It seems that it may also be last in the queue for improved play facilities.

Decision session considers ‘uplift’ to foster carers’ fees

City of York Council’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education will consider plans to provide an increase to York foster carers’ fees at a decision session next week (15 October).

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson will review recommendations made in an independent report into the council’s foster carers’ fee increase, which was commissioned following a decision to cease the uplift in January 2019.

The foster carers’ uplift had been annually linked to any rise in social workers’ salary, but this was ceased so that the funding could be used to provide an enhanced training and support package for foster carers.

The independent report was commissioned following feedback from York Area Foster Carer Association (YAFCA).

The executive member will be asked to consider a number of recommendations in the report, including implementing the fee uplift for foster carers on level one and two of the grading structure in 2019/20, holding an annual conference for foster carers, and also setting out a clear framework for future consultation and communication on decisions relating to the carers.

The decision session takes place on Tuesday 15 October at West Offices from 4pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch later online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

To find out more about the report, or to attend, visit:

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Executive Member for Children, Young people and Education, City of York Council, said: “Foster carers are an essential part of our support for some of York’s most vulnerable children and young people.

“We recognise the important contribution that foster carers make to our city and we are committed to working in partnership with them.”

National Adoption Week (14-20 October) is the ideal time to find out if you can adopt

There are currently 69 children across North Yorkshire and the Humber who are waiting for permanent, loving homes due to a shortage of people coming forward to adopt.

Unfortunately many potential adopters rule themselves out, due to myths and outdated beliefs about who can adopt and the qualities they need. During this year’s National Adoption Week, which takes place from 14-20 October, One Adoption North and Humber is urging all potential adopters to come to an information event or contact the agency to find out how they can create a forever family.

In addition to a series of information events across the region, One Adoption is hosting a live online question and answer session via social media on 14 October from 8-9pm. The Q&A, which will be hosted on the agency’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/oneadoption, will enable people who are thinking of adopting to get up-to-date and correct information about who can adopt, the adoption process and anything else they are curious about from adoption professionals.

Suzie Grove, head of One Adoption North and Humber (the regional adoption agency) said:

“We would love to hear from anyone interested in learning more about adoption. We need all kinds of different families to meet the varied needs of children across our region and particularly need adoptive parents for sibling groups of all sizes.

“People often assume that you have to be a certain type of person to adopt, but this isn’t the case. We want people who are committed to having a positive impact on a child’s life, and are devoted to providing them with a secure and loving home.”

The regional adoption agency for North Yorkshire and the Humber is also keen to ‘bust’ the myths which often put people off from taking the first step into adoption.

Suzie added:

“Our team has lots of experience helping people create a family and are always on hand to answer your questions. For instance, you don’t have to be married to adopt, we have some excellent single adopters, and we have approved lots of adopters from the LGBTQ+ community. People of any race or religion are welcome to apply as are people who have a disability or are an older parent. The only criteria is that you must be 21 years or older, have space in your home and a willingness to provide a safe and loving home for a child.

“We are so grateful for the wonderful adopters who have chosen to adopt with us but we always need more people to take that first step towards becoming a parent.”

People who are concerned that they may not get the support they need once they adopt can also be reassured. One Adoption parents are supported throughout the whole process by highly experienced, dedicated adoption support teams. There is a comprehensive programme of pre- and post-adoption training and support – from stay and play sessions to more in-depth workshops and a new peer mentoring scheme.

During National Adoption Week One Adoption North and Humber is holding a series of drop-in information events to help more people find out about the adoption process and the needs of children who are waiting to be adopted. These are:

  • Hull – Wednesday 16 October, 17:30 (The Guildhall, HU1 2AA)
  • – Wednesday 16 October, 11:00-13:00 (80 High Street, Starbeck HG2 7LW)
  • – Thursday 17 October, 13:00-15:00 (North Yorkshire House, Scalby Road YO12 6EE)
  • York – Saturday 19 October 09:30-11:00 (West Offices, YO1 6GA)

These are in addition to the regular adoption information events held across the North Yorkshire and Humber region.

People who are interested in finding out more about adoption are advised to call 0345 305 2576 and talk to one of the friendly teams in each area or visit www.oneadoption.co.uk.

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, City of York Council, said: “City of York Council is the host authority for One Adoption North and Humber, so I am really proud of the work we are doing together to speed up the adoption process for our children and help find the right adoptive parents for them more quickly. Our regional adoption agency is playing a vital role in improving the outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in our care.”

Volunteers refurbish Foxwood Lane kiddies play equipment

Nice to see the play equipment in the playground on Foxwood Lane being spruced up today. According to social media the volunteers who did the work were from the Food Standards Agency.

We’re hoping that the Council will ensure that repairs to playgrounds generally are undertaken quickly.

In addition it would be nice to see at least one piece of play equipment renewed each year. This would give children something new to look forward to while minimising the upheaval of complete modernisation every 20 years.

More than 8,000 local children to take part in Walk to School Week 2019

More than half of York’s primary schools will take part in Walk to School Week 2019, which runs from 14 to 18 October.

The national, awareness-raising event is staged annually and aims to encourage children and their families to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school, rather than travelling by car.

Locally, in excess of 8,000 students from 28 different schools will get involved. City of York Council’s iTravel team will present the Jack Archer Award to the school with the highest proportion of its students walking, cycling or scooting throughout the week, as well as cash to spend on sports equipment, which has been donated by Age UK. The Jack Archer Award is now in its sixteenth year and Age UK has supported the competition since it was first launched as part of its intergenerational work to encourage children to be more active.

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, the council’s Executive Member for Transport, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many local schools getting involved in Walk to School Week and competing for the Jack Archer Award.

“The council is committed to promoting sustainable forms of transport and it’s important that children are encouraged to adopt these habits from a young age. In addition to the health and wellbeing benefits for the children themselves, walking, cycling or scooting benefits everyone by reducing traffic congestion and emissions, and improving air quality.

“Good luck to all the schools taking part!”

Residents of all ages can find out more about sustainable travel options by visiting www.itravelyork.info.