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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Is it fair to fine parents if kids play truant?
Police question a child with his mother during school time
Spot fines for truancy have been handed out to 40 parents in the north of England.

Police, Local Education Authorities and head teachers are allowed to issue the fines without having to take the parents to court.

The initial fine of 50 rises to 100 if not paid within 28 days. If parents refuse to pay they face prosecution and a possible jail sentence

Parents may also be fined if they take their children out of school on term-time holidays without permission.

Is the government right to fine parents for truanting children? Would you take your child out of school for a holiday? How should truancy be tackled?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far.

It is not easy trying to get a stubborn teenager to go to school
Rayne, West Yorkshire UK
It is not easy trying to get a stubborn teenager to go to school if she doesn't want to. I have had row upon row with her over this and have taken her to school on more than one occasion but because her Dad and I both work she takes advantage of this. It doesn't help either that the friends she has go to school as and when they please and also friends who are of school leaving age so she thinks she can do the same as them and no amount of warning that we could be fined or imprisoned make little difference to her attitude. I fully agree that parents should be made responsible for their child's truancy but what else can we do when she just refuses to take notice?
Rayne, West Yorkshire UK

Isn't a little strange that you get a 60 fine for endangering lives by exceeding the speed limit and a 50 fine for taking your kids on holiday? The government is very, very wrong and I wonder if what they are doing is really legal?
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire

The majority of fines are handed out to parents who are with their children whilst they should be at school. School is not a glorified childminding option and parents can not negate their responsibility for their child's welfare or education. The parent plays a vital role in the process, the fines are right.
Mark , Cambridge

Why don't teachers make classes more enjoyable for pupils so they don't want to truant.
Anna , Boston, US- expat

The teaching profession has become weak due again to the blame culture
Andy, UK
The blame culture strikes again. Yes parents are and should be responsible for their children but the schools also have a duty to ensure those that are entrusted to them are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I believe the teaching profession has become weak due again to the blame culture and nobody wanting to take responsibility anymore. My final comment would be directed at Debbie from Sunderland. She is right nobody is forced to have children but they are our legacy and with this attitude she will become a sad lonely old lady.
Andy, UK

Why does it always come as a shock to parents that holidays cost more during school vacation times? No-one is forced to have children - it is a choice. And remember, the state is also helping you financially - I don't have kids but I'm sure my taxes are going towards child benefit, tax breaks for parents, etc.
Debbie, Sunderland, UK

Debbie from Sunderland - imagine if your parents had decided not to have you, thus enabling them to have cheap holidays instead? Or did you not ask to be born! Also, having checked my recent wage slip, I can assure you that the state takes much, much more from me than it gives back because I have a child.
Debbie, Scotland

The majority of anti-social behaviour by children is mostly down to uninterested parents. Do I think parents should be fined? YES I do. A small fine to start off with the amount rising each time their child gets in trouble again that directly affects the public. There are families near where I live that I would dearly love to see locked up. If you think the children are bad, you should see the parents. If you go round to complain about their children truanting from school, smashing windows and causing public disorder, you're met with violent threats from the parents about what will happen to you. Yeah I say fine them and fine them hard
Ian C, UK

First we had 'it's not the kids' fault, it's that of society', then it was the slightly more trendy 'it is the kids' fault, but only because all kids are different so it's really their genes' fault so the kids can't really be held responsible'. Now we are trying to blame the parents! Teenagers make their own choices and the only way we are going to teach kids to make those choices based on respect and conscientiousness is to hold them accountable or their own actions. You only have to look at youth crime and the general lack of respect today to see what this move away from accountability has achieved.
Evan, UK/Dubai

Such a simplistic approach is no use
Dave, UK
Such a simplistic approach is no use. Nobody has commented on the reasons for truanting or they imply that it can only be down to lack of discipline. Maybe a child is being bullied, or has serious problems at home and is very unhappy, or the school is failing them and they feel 'stupid' or 'a waster'. Surely, it's better to look at the causes and try if possible to remedy them than this silly idea?
Dave, UK

If a kid misses school the parents should be invoiced for cost of a private tutor to making up the missed material. Maybe they would then realise the value of the 'gift' that is being given to their kids. If this is not done sooner or later tax payers are going to demand that parents pay all the costs of bringing up their kids.
Mark K, London, UK

It is something that should be looked at case by case. I know of a kid that refuses to go to school unless his mother drives him and gets mad when she doesn't pick him up. I have also seen where the parents make excuses why their child is not in school for a whole semester. It is a mixed bag with no real answers.
Russ, USA

I am afraid that it is not the best solution to a very important issue. Of course, parents are responsible for giving decent up bringing and education to their children, and majority of them do not wish to see them behaving badly in society. Few parents, however, knowingly ignore warnings from schools, police and neighbours if their children play truant, take drugs or run riot in the streets etc, and these are the parents who should and must be fined or prosecuted as defined by law so other could be warned.
Saqib Khan,

If there were enough jobs or training places for the kids at 15 years old that provided a sensible learning experience without being exploited then truancy would drop. Why should a 15 year old be made to stay at school when no educational gains are to be made? Let them work and gain self esteem rather than useless bits of paper.
D. Routledge, UK

My sister has 6 children, 5 are no problem at all, one thinks the world exists for his amusement. She physically takes him into school, but he leaves as soon as her back is turned. She has begged for help from Social Services who have told her that she 'does not meet the criteria', what criteria, they will not say. So let's fine her. That will really help. Perhaps giving help when it is asked for would be better?
Colin M, London, England

Children are the mirror of their parents
Nikolas, Manchester-UK
Children are the mirror of their parents. Hence it is only reasonable to make parents understand that they are responsible for the way their children behave. I learned mostly how I should behave and what are my rights and responsibilities from my parents.
Nikolas, Manchester-UK

Great idea. Maybe it will encourage parents to enforce some discipline - something sadly lacking these days.
Paul, Cardiff, UK

I think this idea of paying a fine is so stupid & wrong. Would they fine the parents if they are sick too?
Eden Richardson, New York, America

How can fining and potentially throwing parents in jail help reduce truancy levels? And what's wrong with our children taking a sickie? It seems to be fine for their parents.
Henry Friedman, London

Where a parent blatantly refuses to deliver the child to the care and custody of the school, I can understand the logic of the parent being penalised in this manner. However, once the child is in the care of the school, if this child then plays truant, this is NOT the responsibility of the parent - but the responsibility of the teacher of that child at the time the truancy began. Under this circumstance, it is logical, therefore, for the teacher to be similarly penalised.
Alan Hall, Evesham, Worcs.

Yet another daft nanny state idea. Just how are parents (who probably have to get to work themselves) ensure their recalcitrant offspring go to school and stay there? Perhaps they should tag their kids with GPS trackers - and I'm only half joking!
Max, UK

Yes, parents should be held responsible. I used to live in Eastern Europe when it was ruled by communists. Parents used to get fined if their kids misbehaved. Children were much more respectful that they are now, and alcohol/drugs/crime problem was non-existent.
Sasha, London, UK

In due time the state will have everyone parenting perfect little children
Tom, Denver, Colorado, USA
What a wonderful idea. Perhaps fines ought to also be levies on the parents of children who are rude or overweight as well. There are probably many other things for which fines ought to be given. In due time the state will have everyone parenting perfect little children and parents won't have to be bothered with figuring out how to raise their children for themselves. Won't that be nice.
Tom, Denver, Colorado, USA

Had my poor mother been held responsible for my truancy she would have ended up in jail and I in care. I can't see how it would have helped either of us. If a child decides to play truant there is little mothers or fathers can do to stop them.
David Young, London, England

Every parent has the duty to ensure their child receives a decent education. If this moral obligation isn't strong enough to guarantee a child's attendance in class, perhaps it's time we made it a financial obligation too.
Michael, Cheltenham, UK

Fifteen year olds will make their own choices
Sarah, Nottingham, UK
Perhaps for primary school aged children. But for older teenagers, it doesn't seem right. Fifteen year olds will make their own choices and do as they please, and parents often have very little means of controlling them.
Sarah, Nottingham, UK

First we take away the rights for parents to punish their children, without teaching them what to do instead, and then we fine them for not punishing them. Amazing.
Richard, Luton, UK

I disagree with this greatly. Shouldn't a warning system be in place to give parents the chance to try and bring the truancy situation under control? Many parents will be unaware that the situation is even happening, so an instant fine doesn't give any lee-way to turn things around. A lot of unhappy parents will result from this, forcing further disengagement with the school.
Mia, North East, UK

A lot of low level crime such as graffiti and vandalism is committed by children playing truant
Tom, UK
I think so. Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children attend school and get an education. Also - a lot of low level crime such as graffiti and vandalism is committed by children playing truant.
Tom, UK

You can not teach people anything - you can only help them to learn. Forcing children into the classroom by any means is not productive. It has to be a place where they feel content and inspired to fulfil their potential.
S Dynan, Buckingham, UK

If parents assist, collude with or permit children to be absent from school without good reason, of course it is right to fine them. But bearing in mind that the school has nominal control once children are on their premises, it is down to the school to make reasonable efforts to ensure the children stay at school. If they don't, shouldn't schools also be fined?
Steve, UK

We should look deeper for the answer to this question, not try and make money out of it
Tom, , Liverpool
No I don't think so, they probably come from poor backgrounds and will not be able to afford the fines anyway, the state will have to pay them. I think we should look deeper for the answer to this question, not try and make money out of it
Tom, Liverpool

I have a young child at school and there is no way I am lining the pockets of big holiday companies by paying a premium for holidays during the school break. It makes me weep sometimes to think my daughter is missing a week or so of school just because the holiday companies price parents like me out of the market with their rip-off prices. But if the Government had their way - I'd end up having to choose between paying a 'parent tax' to the Government or a 'parent tax' to the Holiday companies.
Richard I Stone, Lowestoft, UK

Up to a point. Parents are ultimately responsible - but the courts need to have the discretion to use other sanctions in the case of older teenagers who will not acknowledge parental authority. Although arguably even then the situation would not have arisen but for the parents' earlier actions.
Guy Chapman, Reading, UK

I can understand the need to fine parents who take their kids shopping or on trips etc, but I don't think it is fair to blame them when kids disappear from school when clearly the parents think they are safely in school.
Sonia, Oxford

Forcing disruptive, disinterested kids back into a class that wants to learn does more harm than good
Phil, Stafford
We should work on a system which does the greatest good. Forcing disruptive, disinterested kids back into a class that wants to learn does more harm than good. Segregate them, monitor them teach them. Fining them is just another stealth tax which will have no effect.
Phil, Stafford

A 12 year old in my son's class routinely has days off to go rallying with his father, often followed by a half day when he was too tired to get up. It seems he always tells the teacher he was sick. He also takes days off mid week to go to Alton Towers and he boasts that his mother usually lets him take off on the last day of term! These are respectable parents in a rural area with an excellent school. These parents should definitely be fined in my view!
June, Birmingham UK

If parents are not prepared to take full responsibility for their children until they become adults then they should not become parents. Part of that responsibility means ensuring that they are educated to the age of 16 years and attend school. If they can't do that, then they must be punished - i.e. pay fines.
Roshan, UK

If parents do not teach their kids how to operate in society, society suffers
TB, Spain
Absolutely. If parents do not teach their kids how to operate in society, society suffers. A little incentive is sometimes needed.
TB, Spain

Yes if you can prove that the parent is not actively trying to solve the issue. However, if I actively try to stop my children truanting but they persist what am I supposed to do ?
Mark Slater, Hertfordshire

Yes, of course. It may make some parents sit up and realise they have to take responsibility for their children.
Ben Bell, Canterbury, Kent, England

Of course it is the whole point of being a parent is being responsible for your children. Its about time parents started acting like parents and stopped looking for other people to blame.
Arron Clements, Coventry, UK

Some children would be better off being allowed to leave school at 14 and start vocational work
Sarah Allen, Somerset, UK
Absolutely right - it's parents' responsibility to get their children to school every day unless they're ill. It's no good saying 'my child doesn't like school' - we all have to learn the painful lesson that sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do and that are inconvenient. I do think, however, that some children would be better off being allowed to leave school at 14, say, and start vocational work or apprenticeships rather than having to keep on doing academic work they're neither suited to nor have a hope at succeeding in.
Sarah Allen, Somerset, UK

Absolutely fair. If the troublesome kids had proper discipline during their earlier years and knew that boundaries are set and not to be crossed, then this type of behaviour wouldn't exist.
Lee, West Berkshire

'Quickie' truancy fines dealt out
17 Jun 04  |  Education
Girl expelled over term holiday
16 Jun 04  |  Education
Warning on school time holidays
30 Dec 03  |  Education
Heads could fine parents of truants
12 Dec 02  |  Education
100 instant penalty for truancy
03 Oct 03  |  Education
Term-time holidays OK say parents
27 Feb 03  |  Education


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