Suffolk: More than 500 parents in the dock over truant children

MORE than 500 mums and dads were taken to court for failing to send their children to school in the last five years, figures have revealed.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 574 parents were prosecuted for failing to ensure their child or children attended school between 2007 and 2011 in Suffolk, with 475 convicted.

In the 2010/11 school year 116 parents were convicted – a rise of 29 from three years earlier – but was a fall from the 2009/10 term, in which 156 parents were convicted.

Fines varied from �25 to �600 and community service was issued in some cases.

Adrian Orr, Suffolk County Council’s senior adviser for social inclusion, said: “We recognise that we are in a challenging economic climate and prices for holidays go up at the beginning of the school holiday period.

“However our challenge is to get parents to ask ‘what is the real price of a cheap holiday?’

“Long-term it could affect their child’s attainment. Term-time holidays should only be authorised in exceptional circumstances.

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“Studies have shown continual absence from school can have a negative impact on a child’s attainment, potentially causing them to drop a grade at GCSE level.

“Tackling pupil absence is part of the Raising the Bar programme. By reducing the levels of absence, we are giving pupils every chance to achieve their potential.”

Truancy – unauthorised absences – stood at 0.9 per cent of half days missed in autumn and spring 2011/12 nationally, down from 1pc last year according to government data. However, that is still equivalent to around 56,500 pupils skipping school without permission each day.

“Unfortunately I can’t see the figures coming down,” said Graham White, County Secretary for Suffolk NUT (National Union of Teachers).

“We are really concerned because education is really important and we hope that parents think that as well.

“We want well-educated and well-rounded individuals.

“But schools have a narrower curriculum that is imposed by the government.

“It is not aimed to encourage students go to school. It needs to be broader and more balanced. It is grossly unfair on the pupils.”

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