Suffolk: Calls for tougher sanctions for parents of pupils playing truant as low conviction rate revealed
Parents of persistently truant schoolchildren in Suffolk should face tougher punishments, it was claimed last night, after it emerged many were escaping court sanctions.
Figures unveiled under Freedom of Information laws showed 83 parents in the county were convicted for failing to ensure their children attended school in 2010/11.
But 5,100 pupils were described as being persistently absent in the same year by the Department for Education, meaning for both authorised and unauthorised reasons they lost at least 15% of their teaching time.
Some 4,790 pupils were persistently absent in the following year, with 106 parents convicted for failing to ensure their child’s attendance in that year.
Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, said stronger court sanctions may be necessary in some cases.
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Coalition government ministers have pressed for the threshold for what qualifies as persistent truancy to be further lowered, meaning more parents would be in line for sanctions.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also previously suggested cutting the benefits of parents who allow their children to routinely skip school.
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Mr White said: “We must remedy the reasons why pupils are not going to school in the first place, but I accept sending parents to court, which is a last resort, or calling for tougher sanctions could be necessary in some cases where parents absolutely refuse to send their children to school.”
Pupil attendance statistics are unavailable for 2012/13. However, there were 140 convictions.
Magistrates gained new powers to deal with the parents of truant children in 2000, when the maximum fine they could impose rose from £1,000 to £2,500.
Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said the authority works with schools, parents and pupils to root out problems which cause truancy before it “gets out of hand”.
Since September 2012, headteachers have been able to impose a £60 spot fine on parents, rising to £120 if unpaid. This compares to £50 previously.