Poll: Over 200 parents prosecuted last year for failing to get children to school
PUBLISHED: 15:46 19 December 2013 | UPDATED: 15:46 19 December 2013
Over 200 parents were prosecuted in the last academic year in Suffolk for allowing their children to truant.
The figures have been revealed the day after officers from Suffolk County Council caught 43 youngsters truanting in Ipswich.
Yesterday education welfare officers teamed up with police in a co-ordinated sweep through the town centre, retail parks and housing estates of Ipswich.
10 pupils were immediately returned to school and eight parents received £60 fixed penalty notices.
Now it has emerged that 323 young people were stopped in the streets during school hours and found to be out of school without permission in the academic year 2012-13.
235 of these were of secondary school age and 88 were primary school age.
Of the 204 parents prosecuted, 162 were for first offences and 39 were second offences – which can lead to a prison sentence. One parent was sentenced to four weeks in prison.
Yesterday one of the parents caught with a truant child said her son had spilt beetroot on his shirt the night before, and she’d needed to take him shopping for another before he could return to school.
Suffolk is near the bottom of league table rankings for school attendance; 127th out of 152.
There is a strong correlation between poor attendance and academic achievement.
Figures from the Department of Education show that 88% of children that regularly miss days in school fail to gain five good GCSEs – 45% fail to get any.
Furthermore two thirds of young people with attendance of 93.5% and above get five good GCSEs (between A*-C). This drops to just over a quarter for pupils with attendance of 88% or below.
Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said: “As a busy parent myself, I know that it can sometimes seem necessary or desirable to take your child out of school.
“But when you consider the fact that a 90% school attendance record is equivalent to missing half a year of secondary school, it really brings home the need for young people to be in school learning every day.
“We have an excellent education welfare service in Suffolk and our staff work hard with police to educate parents about the need to ensure their children are in school. But sometimes tough action is needed to enforce the point that a child’s education must always come first.”
However last night Labour’s shadow spokesperson for education, skills and young people, Councillor Sonia Barker, said that tough action wasn’t tough enough adding, “this administration tinkers around the edges with the talking shop that is ‘Raising the Bar’.”
Citing figures that the number of fixed penalty notices issued for truancy in Suffolk was 0.63 per 100 pupils, compared to 11.57 in London, the former teacher said the role of education welfare officers needed to be strengthened and better resourced.
“We know that London schools have much better attainment than Suffolk schools,” she said. “But we also know that the authorities in London take attendance much more seriously than Suffolk County Council.
“It is time this administration stepped up to the plate and showed some leadership over the subject of attendance at school.”