Truant’s mother is spared prison

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A WIGAN mum whose daughter truanted from school more than 100 times over five months has avoided being sent back to prison.

Valerie Wilkes, from Platt Bridge, was given a suspended sentence and a curfew for failing to ensure her 15-year-old, Jessica Roberts, was regularly attending Rose Bridge High at Ince.

Wigan magistrates heard Jessica attended classes for just 22 half-day sessions out of a possible 138 between December 2011 and April 2012, with all 116 missed being unauthorised.

Jessica has an attendance rate for this academic year of just 25 per cent. No medical certificates were provided to account for her absences.

The court heard the school and local authority had made numerous attempts to contact Ms Wilkes and discuss the situation, and at one meeting a target had been set for Jessica to achieve a 50 per cent attendance rate.

The court was also told Ms Wilkes had previously received a short custodial sentence for the same charge and that this had not substantially improved the girl’s long-term appearance record.

Wilkes, of Scafell Grove, had tried to ensure Jessica caught the bus to school by giving her the fare, and on occasions had accompanied her on the bus.

Defending, Louise Barrow said Wilkes, 41, had done everything she could to try to improve Jessica’s attendance, but was unable to discover the reasons for her absences as she would not talk to her about it. Ms Barrow said: “Ms Wilkes feels like she is banging her head against a brick wall. She has been given advice on what to do, but it has not had the desired effect.

“She relies on Jobseeker’s Allowance and child benefit and when these are paid, she pays the bus fee to go on the bus with Jessica, and she then generally stays in school. Jessica did not realise her actions might result in her mother going to prison, and she was petrified at the thought that might happen again.

“She has promised she will go to school as she will be going into her GCSE year in September.”

Wilkes was sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for 12 months, given a curfew between 7pm and 7am to run until January 4, and ordered to pay £200 costs.