Failing parents in court

FAILING parents of two Suffolk schoolboys face court orders today after their sons skived off their schools for hundreds of days in a six month period.

FAILING parents of two Suffolk schoolboys face court orders today after their sons skived off their schools for hundreds of days in a six month period.

The cases come just days after Patricia Amos was jailed in Banbury, Oxfordshire for 60 days was jailed for her daughters' truancy.

She is now free after a successful appeal.

Today, a Suffolk teachers' union branded truancy a 'spiral of despair'.

But at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court in Ipswich yesterday, parenting orders to help tackle the Ipswich youngsters' problem, were considered instead.

The court imposed reporting restrictions on naming the children involved in both cases, which means the parents and schools cannot be identified either.

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Both mums admitted failing to send the children to school, contrary to the Education Act 1996.

One boy had only attended 16 out of 182 sessions in nearly five months which the court heard was 'almost a complete lack of education.'

The teenager had three authorised absences, and 163 unauthorised.

Elizabeth Maloney, prosecuting for Suffolk County Council, said: "The education welfare officer worked very hard in this case, because there has been a serious record of non attendance. He should be taking his GCSEs.

"The school held a meeting to offer support so he could up, and devise a reintegration plan."

The 37-year-old mum said: "I have tried my best," but added it was 'physically impossible' to get the youth out of bed in the mornings.

She said: "Since I've been in court for the first time, he has seen he has got to go to school - it's compulsory. I have been to the doctors' and social services to see about an outreach programme, and I give him more encouragement every day he does go to school."

She agreed to a three-month parenting order, was fined £50 and ordered to pay the council £25 costs.

Chairman of magistrates Mrs Maureen Bateman told the mother: "There was almost a complete lack of education during the period of the charge you are facing.

"However, he does now attend school regularly and you are co-operative, and tackling your problems including debts, so you seem to be working to address the issues."

In a separate case, a 36-year-old mother was being prosecuted because her teenage son had only attended 35 out of 182 school sessions in six months.

The boy only had two absences authorised, and 145 were not.

Ms Maloney said the mother claimed her son avoided registration because he didn't like the tutor.

The mother handed a letter to magistrates which revealed she had experienced problems with her other children, and she agreed a parenting order 'would be helpful.'

The case was adjourned to June 12, for a report to be prepared to see if a parenting order would be suitable.

Elizabeth Maloney, assistant education officer for Suffolk County Council, said: "It is parents' responsibility to make sure their children are attending school, so that they can receive the education they are entitled to, and the LEA has to ensure that this is happening.

"Taking parents to court is one of the tools we have to ensure young people are returned to school, but we also do a lot of work with parents to support them in fulfilling their legal responsibilities before we get to this stage."

Tim Beech, regional organiser for NASUWT said: "The Government's plan to jail parents seems a bit draconian, and we have reservations about it because children then fall into the care of social services and their background becomes disposessed. But it has brought a short term gain.

"Teachers need consistency in classrooms because although fewer pupils in class seems pleasant at first, they then have to teach truants individually on their return to the classroom, to catch up because they are so out of sync. That's the real headache for teachers.

"Parents should be helped at an early stage, because if they don't stop the truancy, their children will grow up to become parents and the next generation could do the same. It's a spiral of despair."