Fines for parents of truants

PARENTS in Suffolk whose children miss school for unauthorised reasons will face fixed penalty fines from September under tough new measures.Any parent whose child has skipped ten morning or afternoon sessions without permission in any one school term - even for a holiday - could be issued with a £50 or £100 fine, it has been revealed.

PARENTS in Suffolk whose children miss school for unauthorised reasons will face fixed penalty fines from September under tough new measures.

Any parent whose child has skipped ten morning or afternoon sessions without permission in any one school term - even for a holiday - could be issued with a £50 or £100 fine, it has been revealed.

The new scheme, already underway in some parts of the country, is being brought in by Suffolk County Council in a bid to tackle truancy.

It is part of a raft of measures available under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act which allow local authority officers, headteachers and the police to curb unauthorised absence.

The full details of the new system have come under fire from a parents group.

A spokeswoman for charity Parentline Plus said: “Rather than punishing parents, which is derisory, we should be providing help and support long before it gets to the situation where it becomes an issue.

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“We know from our research that there are many complex issues around why children truant, and parents panicked by the threat of imprisonment, fines or parenting orders are not being given the skills and support they need to stop their children truanting.”

School attendance levels in many parts of Suffolk fell between 2004/05 and 2005/06 and the county council has pledged to tackle the problem.

Under the new scheme, parents whose children are identified for the first time as having missed ten or more sessions, without permission, in a single term will be issued with a warning, followed by a penalty notice if there are anymore unauthorised absences in the following 15 days,

Parents will also receive a warning the first time they take their children out of term for an unauthorised holiday longer than ten sessions or more, followed by a fine for further unauthorised absences after this period.

However, parents of children who have previously had unexplained absence and who have been stopped during a truancy sweep accompanying their children will be issued with an immediate fine.

Patricia O'Brien, the county council's portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said: “There is never any let up in our efforts to improve the rates of school attendance in Suffolk.”

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the fixed penalty would be welcome if it can be made to work. But he added: “However, there would be the danger that those parents who are trying hard to get their children to attend, but are dealing with outright refusals to attend, would find themselves paying the sums demanded, even though they are not at fault.”

n. Do you think the fines are a good idea? Do you have a child who plays truant? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Parents will be fined £50 if they pay within 28 days of receiving the penalty notice.

This rises to £100 if they pay after 28 days but within 42 days of receipt of the notice.

Instalments will not be acceptable.

Parents will not receive more than one penalty notice per child in any 12-month period but failure to pay a fine will result in prosecution.

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