Parents truancy shame

MORE than 150 parents have been brought before magistrates in Wigan in the past two years after their children played truant.

The Wigan Evening Post can reveal that 152 parents were prosecuted between January 2009 and December 2010.

Figures released through a Freedom of Information request reveal that the 152 people prosecuted paid £32,585 in fines and court costs. They also racked up 1,730 hours in unpaid work. In other cases, parents were given parenting orders and curfews.

In two cases, parents were given 28-day and 14-day prison sentences and 10 parents were given suspended prison sentences from eight weeks to five months.

By law, all children of compulsory school age (five to 16) must receive a suitable full-time education. Parents have a legal responsibility to make sure this happens – either by registering their child at a school or by making other arrangements.

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

If they do not, parents will be contacted by their child’s school or the local authority.

Local authorities have a duty to step in if they believe a child is not getting the education required by law.

If a child misses school, parents may be visited by a member of the Education Welfare Service. Following this, legal action can be taken against parents by the local authority.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister David Cameron said in the future, parents of children who regularly truant face having their benefits cut.

Wigan councillor Susan Loudon, cabinet member for young people, said: “Regular school attendance is important.

“Pupils who do not attend regularly are more likely to leave school with few or no qualifications, and more likely to be out of work after leaving school.

“They are at higher risk of involvement in crime.

“There are many legal interventions available to local authorities and our use of them has made a significant impact on pupil attendance.

“Around half of prosecutions brought to the attention of magistrates result in significant overall improvements in attendance.

“For pupils and parents, it often heightens awareness of absence issues and their responsibility to ensure their children attend school regularly.”