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Thousands of parents prosecuted for child truancy

By Jack Averty | Education | Published:

More than 1,000 parents across the region have been taken to court in just one year over their child's truancy from school.

The number of prosecutions over child truancy is on the rise

In 2017 councils across the West Midlands took 992 parents to court, with councils in Staffordshire looking to prosecute 152 parents.

Parents were found guilty in 85 per cent of cases in the West Midlands (844) and 82 per cent in Staffordshire (124).

The most common outcome for parents was a fine, with community sentences, such as an order to carry out unpaid work, also issued.

Both sets of figures show a marked increase on 2013, with the government launching a crackdown on unauthorised school absences.

In 2013, 734 parents in the West Midlands were prosecuted with 91 in Staffordshire.

In total, parents have been prosecuted for truancy 4,108 times in the West Midlands and 751 times in the West Midlands between 2013 and 2017.

Lasting effect

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances.

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"We are clear that pupils can only take term-time leave in exceptional circumstances, and where this leave has been authorised by the headteacher."

Prosecutions for truancy across England and Wales reached 18,377 during 2017 – 6,600 more than during 2013 – with parents being hit with more than 11,700 fines.

The National Education Union (NEU) argues fines are counter-productive, and that there is no easy fix for truancy

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: "One thing that is certainly needed, to ensure pupils are in school and engaged in learning, is a dialogue between the school and parents or carer.

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"Fines invariably have the complete opposite effect, creating unnecessary tensions between schools and families.

"Clearly this is counterproductive to getting the problem resolved.”

Seven in 10 prosecutions in the West Midlands were against women, compared with three quarters in Staffordshire.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of women's rights charity Fawcett Society, said it was concerning to see mothers penalised more often than fathers, adding that society was "too quick to judge mothers".

Both parents have a legal obligation to ensure children attend school regularly, regardless of whether they are separated.

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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