Parents prosecuted over truant children
THIRTEEN parents have appeared in court to answer for their children playing truant from school.Eight of those – one couple and six single parents – admitted failing to ensure their son or daughter went to school and were punished with fines or conditional discharges.
By Jonathan Barnes
THIRTEEN parents have appeared in court to answer for their children playing truant from school.
Eight of those – one couple and six single parents – admitted failing to ensure their son or daughter went to school and were punished with fines or conditional discharges.
One other married couple, from Ipswich, will face a trial after denying one charge of failing to send their teenage son to school.
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The prosecutions were brought by Suffolk County Council which has pledged to clamp down on parents if children are regularly not attending school.
The cases listed at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court yesterday related to 17 parents and 14 children, who are all high school pupils, 10 from Ipswich and four from Felixstowe.
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Margaret Smith, prosecuting for the council, outlined a number of "very serious" cases of child truancy.
They included one teenage girl clocking up 174 unauthorised absences out of 188 sessions at her school in Ipswich between February and August this year.
Her mother told the court her daughter had been bullied by fellow pupils and was scared of going to school.
She was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and was told to pay prosecution costs of £50.
The court heard one mother failed to get her teenage son to attend school because he was a "strapping lad of 6ft and if he didn't want to go to school, he didn't go – she could rant and rave as much as she liked."
In virtually all the cases, the child's attendance record had vastly improved – some to 100% - when their parent or parents were taken to court.
Two mothers, one from Ipswich and one from Felixstowe, were fined £25 each after their child's attendance levels dropped to alarming levels between February and August.
A single father, from Ipswich, admitted not ensuring his daughter attended school but said he worked away a lot and could not force her to if she decided not to go.
One couple, who also admitted the offence, explained their daughter was a "problem child" and had major difficulties at her school in Felixstowe. They were each given a conditional discharge for nine months and told to pay £25 costs.
A married couple from Felixstowe appeared before the magistrates and their case was adjourned until October 20 for them to enter pleas.
A mother from Ipswich also had her case adjourned to that date after her solicitor argued she had been told she would not be prosecuted if her child returned to school this current school term – and had been summonsed to court regardless.
Four other mothers charged with failing to send their children to school did not appear at the court yesterday as their cases were adjourned to October 13.
The penalties for children who fail to get their children to school can include prison or a £2,500 fine.
Elizabeth Maloney, assistant education officer at Suffolk County Council, said: "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."