Parents in court

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MORE than 100 parents of truant Wigan children have been hauled in front of magistrates.

By law, local authorities have the power to intervene if they believe a child is not receiving education, either at home or school.

And statistics obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from Wigan Council show that 122 parents appeared in court for their absent kids in the last two years.

The numbers represent a 19 per cent decrease from the previous two years as 152 parents were prosecuted in 2009 and 2010.

But Wigan Council chiefs acknowledged that despite the falling figures, more work is required to tackle non-attendance. Sue Astbury, head of service for early intervention and prevention, said: “The council and its partners recognise that school attendance is fundamental to achieving better outcomes for children and young people.

“It is clear that these latest figures demonstrate a steady improvement in attendance and we recognise the need to improve these further.

“Our new Early Intervention and Prevention Services aim to make sure that children, young people and families who are experiencing problems are identified as early as possible so that appropriate support can be given in a timely manner.”

Once a child is registered at a school, the parents or guardians are legally responsible for making sure they attend regularly.

If the child repeatedly plays truant, the parents are visited by a member of the Education Welfare Service with legal action from the local authority the next step.

A total of 62 Wigan parents were taken to court in 2011 with the figure dropping to 60 in 2012.

The latest set of truancy figures published in 2012 revealed that more than 200 children in Wigan were missing at least one third of their lessons.

Although with percentage rates of absence of 6.1 per cent for secondary schools and 4.8 per cent for primaries, Wigan’s schools compared favourably to the national averages of 6.5 and 5 per cent respectively.

Magistrates gained new powers to deal with parents of absent children in 2000, when the maximum fine rose from £1,000 to £2,500. Punishments can range from fines to custodial sentences in extreme cases.