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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 10:01 GMT
Should heads fine parents over truancy?
Parents of truanting children could be issued with fixed penalty notices, similar to parking tickets, under new government plans.
Head teachers could be given the right to fine parents in proposals expected to be announced by Education Secretary Charles Clarke.
The idea is to address truancy figures which haven't improved over the last year. Spot checks have shown many children skip school every day with their parents' permission.
As well as fines, parents could be required to attend classes to improve their parenting skills and sign contracts committing them to certain responsibilities.
The National Union of Teachers says chasing fines would take too long and that legal powers should remain with the courts, and not head teachers.
Will giving heads these powers damage the role they play in supporting children and parents? How else can the truancy problem be addressed? Will fines simply punish troubled families?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
As a school governor, I am aware of some of the issues in this proposal. What gives me most concern is that school staff are often subject to threats, and in some cases violence, from parents of children who have been disciplined in school for a whole range of bad behaviour. There is a huge correlation between the subset of school children who misbehave and those who truant. Can you imagine what heads will be subject to from these parents if they impose fines?
Surely we should be looking at the reasons and causes
why pupils are playing truant. Often it can be for such
reasons a bullying or low-self esteem. Fining parents
is not going to help these children.
When is the government going to start fining MP's every day they fail to turn up? And are TB and IDS going to issue and collect the fines?
Aarah Savill, England
The school system does not create a pleasant environment for children. But the children that play truant are not the children who are bullied, they are the children who have difficulty learning and who have been brought up to believe that they do not have to make the effort. If parents were forced to take some responsibility for their child, they may try harder to bring them up in a way in which they could function in society - the first step being to work hard in school. I don't think however, that it should be the responsibility of the headmaster to collect the fines, it would be a nightmare and should be left to the police and the courts.
This issue can easily be resolved by defining responsibility. The parent has the responsibility of delivering the child to the school premises. At this point, it is the school's responsibility to ensure that the child remains at school - and if this means restricting the child's "right" to roam around the school precincts, (and thereby "escape"), so be it! Once the school and parent(s) have agreed and accepted these definitions, then we can start to ascribe "blame" when truancy occurs, but not until.
Oh yes, what a great idea! Let's give another group of people the power to fine others. Soon the bin men will be able to fine me for forgetting to my bin out. Well done again good old New Labour.
What a great idea. As well as fining the parents of children who skip school, head teachers should also be able to give them detention and lines.
Many of these children are from low income families so taking away food from the table is a good idea? Many of these families have so many issues going on like drug and alcohol abuse, physical abuse, broken marriages, and the like, that truancy is not on the top of their list to deal with. Enforcing heads of schools to dish out the fines leads to another heap of trouble. Can you imagine the backlash?
I skipped school as often as I could - obviously without my parents' knowledge, and every time I was caught my mother had the humiliation of meeting with the teachers. My parents were not to blame - they did the best they could for me. It was just me being a rebellious stroppy teenager.
Neil Saunders, London, England
Presumably parents will be able to fine teachers if they fail to prevent pupils from walking out of school?
I am shocked at some of the small minded comments on this site. This is a very complex problem, and the government seems to think there is a simple solution. I have just left school and am now at university and I could give the government 100 reasons why children miss school, none of which are the fault of the parents. If someone wants to find a possible solution to this problem- they should talk to us, the children!!!
Most truants come from disadvantaged homes in the first place. Fines will merely add to the problems and are unlikely to be paid. Education should be geared to the needs and abilities of the students - currently it is too academic and a turn off to the less gifted. 3Rs essential, but beyond that it should cater for the vocational aptitude of the student. Private schools do a much better job in this respect. I wonder why!
Instead of child support, why not have child at school support? Parents only receive support for each day their child is at school. (Once they start school of course)
I know I would resent any such fine being imposed on me by the school as it oversteps their authority and role. Head teachers should not be policemen for a lazy government incapable of simple joined-up thinking.
Fines and parenting classes will not help one iota. I'm all for parental involvement to address behavioural problems in children but fines... Usually the problem children come from low income families, so why hit them even harder?
In principle, fining parents for their children's truancy seems a good idea and could be extended to their offspring's activities outside of school, but recent figures show that 80% of fines are not paid. Good soundbite but impractical.
What do we have the court system for? There is already a system in place to deal with this; all it needs is for the people concerned to actually operate it! A head teacher is not qualified to make a decision over a punishment for a criminal offence.
I think it's groundbreaking. It's about time we made parents take proper responsibility for their children's actions and I see this as the first step in achieving this. Next I'd like to see parents fined for their children's crimes.
Colin Harrison, UK
Colin Harrison, UK is so na´ve. These are parents who want no responsibilities and simply don't care. What on earth makes him think they either want or need a role in the running of a school? These pathetic excuses for parents can't run a proper family, never mind a school. Come Colin, live in the real world and not some silly PC utopia.
Fining parents is a great idea, though whether the head teacher should have to do the fining is questionable. It will make irresponsible parents think of ways to encourage their offspring to attend, rather than turning a blind eye. About time.
As an ex-head teacher, I am horrified by these proposals. Can you imagine the wrath that head teachers will incur from angry parents if their kids are fined? Why put head teachers in the firing line? And aren't they busy enough with having this added, draconian responsibility?
If a child persists in playing truant and it can be proved the parents aren't encouraging their children to attend, I am sure stopping the family allowance and/or reducing a few benefits may just do the trick.
Fining the parents is not the answer - kids have to learn to do things for themselves ie behave properly and get a proper education - these lessons should have been learnt early on in life. If the parents don't care why should the offspring? Why not fine the child? Crime and punishment - if they are old enough to skip school then they are old enough to take the consequences.
12 Dec 02 | Education
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