Monday, 24 May 2010

Stiff Penalties for Truant Children

By Ben Aulakh

A Midlands council is sending out a message that parents who allow their children to bunk off school could face a court appearance, a fine, or even imprisonment.

Warwickshire County Council recently fined a parent from Nuneaton £135 after they pleaded guilty to failing to secure the full-time attendance of their child at school.

The pupil – from Manor Park School in the town – missed a total of 245 school sessions out of a possible 280 between September 2009 and May 2010, an unauthorised absence rate of 87.5 per cent.

Eleanor Clarke, Deputy Head teacher from Alderman Smith School and Sports College commented: “A pupil’s persistent absence causes disruption to the whole classroom.

“Not only does it impact on the individual’s education but it results in a substantial waste of our teaching and administration resources.

Any absence that is either not explained by a parent or is not agreed by the school is counted as unauthorised, and known as truancy.

Miss Clarke added, “The importance of regular school attendance cannot be underestimated.

“Research shows that half a day a week missed during GCSE’s could mean the loss of a grade for every subject taken, making a big difference to a pupils future options.

Persistent or severe levels of unauthorised absence will be referred to the Education Social Work Service (ESWS), who then can take action

The service offers support to help with any issues that are preventing a child being at school full-time.

However if pupils are persistently late or absent, staff at the service can ensure attendance through fixed penalty notices or parental prosecution.

Tim Scott from the Education Social Work Service said: “We take the matter of truancy very seriously.

“As this case demonstrates, we are not afraid to use the law to demonstrate to parents how important it is for their children to attend school.

"Although we would only choose prosecution in the most persistent cases we will take this course of action to ensure all children get the chance for a good education.

Every school in the county has an attendance policy – available to parents – which details how attendance monitoring and support systems work.

The service also offers guidance to families to explain their responsibilities involving attendance, and provide further information on the Warwickshire County Council website.

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