Parents face jail in truanting crackdown

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THE parents of three Scottish youngsters face up to a month in jail for letting the youngsters skip school.

Education bosses in Edinburgh have started criminal proceedings against the parents, alleging their children have attendance rates as low as 46%.

As well as possible jail terms, the families could each be hit with a fine of £1,000 under the crackdown.

It is the first time the council has taken such action and officials said they wanted to send out a “clear message” to parents.

Some of the children are said to have a school attendance rate as low as 46%

 

The leader of a teaching union strongly backed the move adding it was  so unusual it had almost taken his “breath away”.

Across Scotland, truancy rates have almost doubled in the past five years.

Figures released last December showed that while overall attendance has sat consistently at 93% since 2006, “unexplained absences” soared from 0.8 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

Truancy accounts for 1.6 million lost school days annually in Scotland.

Edinburgh is trying boost average attendance rates across the city’s secondary schools from the present 91% to 91.4%, the equivalent of around 13,000 pupil days.

In primaries, the current average attendance rate is better at 94.5% but education chiefs want to boost that to 94.9%.

The city’s education leader, Paul Godzik, said: “Prosecution is a last resort. Before we consider it, we will use all available recourses and statutory interventions to try and improve a pupil’s attendance.

“If, however, these steps do not help, and parents do not take adequate measures to improve their child’s attendance at school, then they will need to answer for their child’s poor attendance in court.”

He added: “This sends out a clear message to parents that poor attendance at school has serious consequences, and also that we as a council will do everything possible to help children get the education they deserve.”

The three cases are set be heard in the next four to six weeks in front of the Justice of the Peace Court.

Although attendance rates are improving in the city, some 100 pupils were referred to the Children’s Reporter in 2009-10 for truancy.

Some of those brought to the attention of the authorities were as young as four and in their first year at school

If any child’s attendance rate drops below 85% that trigger a formal investigation into the causes.

Even then, parents are given help and advice before they are summoned before a series of attendance panels.

Last December it was reported that Clyde Valley high school, North Lanarkshire, had the worst truancy record of any secondary school in Scotland.

The school’s unauthorised absence rate was 12.2% for pupils in years S1 to S5.

The second-worst truancy record in the nation was reported to be 10.8%  at Drumchapel High in Glasgow.

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), said: “This is interesting in that 20-25 years ago it was very difficult to take action against any parent.

“They had to be referred through various attendance sub-committees of school boards and the process was so long and tortuous. But, despite all this, some parents were prosecuted in the sheriff courts.

“Now it is so unusual , it’s almost taken my breath away to learn that Edinburgh City Council has pursued this.

“I can only assume that it has been left with no alternative.”

Mr McKenzie said some parents, such as those battling drug addiction, who genuinely struggled to get their children to school.

But he added: “There is, and always will be, a hardcore of people who will not co-operate with teachers.

“There has to be an ultimate sanction and I’m pleased Edinburgh is prepared to take this course of action.

“Sporadic attendance creates learning and teaching difficulties seen in many classrooms.”

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