Parents warned in new truancy pledge

THE number of children caught playing truant from school has risen – as education chiefs vow they will continue to prosecute the parents of persistent offenders.

THE number of children caught playing truant from school has risen – as education chiefs vow they will continue to prosecute the parents of persistent offenders.

A three-week truancy sweep by police and education welfare officers in towns across the county saw 486 youngsters stopped and quizzed.

Of those, 41% offered no valid reason why there were not in school, compared to 33% of 344 children stopped during an earlier week-long sweep.

Elizabeth Maloney, assistant education officer (family support) for Suffolk County Council, said the truancy crackdown, which happened before the end of term, had been a great success.


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She added: "It's difficult to compare the figures from the two sweeps because they are not exactly like for like, but certainly there were a number of children out of school for no valid reason.

"It was an important exercise to get across to parents that it is their responsibility to ensure their children go to school – and we do prosecute parents who fail to do so.

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"Obviously, it is vital that children attend school because it's so important to their education, their future lives and their careers."

So far this year Suffolk County Council has successfully prosecuted 51 parents whose children failed to attend school regularly without a good reason.

And Mrs Maloney said there are more prosecutions in the pipeline – with magistrates now able to send offenders to prison, or hand out a large fine.

But she stressed that the county's absence figures – both authorised and unauthorised - are better than the national averages.

Over the school year 2001-2002, just 0.9% of absences from Suffolk's secondary schools were unauthorised, compared to the national figure of 1.1%.

In the county's primary schools the figure was 0.3%, again slightly lower than the national average of 0.5%.

"Our figures are good compared to the national averages but we are not complacent and we are always working to improve them," Mrs Maloney said.

"We take truancy very seriously and are planning another three-week sweep from November 17 to get the message across.

"It's up to all of us to ensure that truancy does not become more of a problem, and I would hope that it does not."

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