Dozens of parents in truancy clampdown

MORE than 60 parents have been before the courts in the last nine months for failing to send their children to school, The Evening Star can reveal today.

MORE than 60 parents have been before the courts in the last nine months for failing to send their children to school, The Evening Star can reveal today.

The revelation came as four more parents from Ipswich and Felixstowe appeared at South East Suffolk Magistrates to plead guilty to failing to cause regular attendance at school of a registered pupil.

The parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were prosecuted by Suffolk County Council's education welfare department.

Margaret Smith, senior education welfare officer, was in court explaining the background behind the cases.

After the hearings she said parents are required by law to ensure their children receive an education.

"All children have a right to education. Under legislation there is no ability for us to bring children before the courts it is the parent's responsibility.

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"We have had 59 prosecutions since September not including today's cases."

"Children do not just get educated at school but also learn to live with others, develop social interaction which equips them for the rest of their lives."

Mrs Smith said national tests and qualifications could also be severely affected if children skip classes.

During the proceedings one parent, who pleaded guilty, received a conditional discharge for one year and £50 costs for failing to ensure her daughter went to school.

The court heard her 13-year-old daughter was present at 58 school registrations out of a possible 132 and her absence was only authorised eight times.

Mrs Smith said: "The girl is not receiving the education that which should be a right. Her mother is failing in her responsibilities."

The mother told the court: "I can't keep her in school. I am doing my best but she has a habit of being a law unto herself. Short of locking her in I do not have a lot of control over her. I cannot take her to school if she is not at home."

Mrs Smith said up to 40 cases of truancy were under investigation by the education welfare team at a time.

She said: "Recently when we have sent out the summons, before we even get to court, changes have been noticed. Sometimes it takes that kick-start."

Failing to ensure children go to school can be met with a fine or even prison.

Mrs Smith said: "The reasons vary, from angst against school, bullying, behavioural problems, many parents don't know and some do not actively do anything to change it despite us going in and talking to them.

"Education officers often address these issues before we get to court. Court is a tool we use to effect change in behaviour."

Truancy mostly affects children in secondary school although children as young as seven do skip school.

Mrs Smith added: "It is at secondary level they are trusted to go to school on their own."

Have you been affected by truancy? Do your children skip school? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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