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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Truants say jailing mother worked
Patricia Amos leaves court after winning her appeal
Patricia Amos was jailed for her children's truancy
The daughters of a woman jailed for failing to prevent them playing truant have told the BBC the punishment was justified.

Patricia Amos was originally sent to prison for 60 days, but was freed last week when the Court of Appeal reduced her sentence to 28 days - she served almost half of it.

Her teenage daughters, Emma, 15, and Jackie, 13, said that seeing their mother behind bars was the impetus that got them back to school.

They pledged not to play truant again.


I felt like it was all my fault because I am the one who had the most time off

Emma, 15,
Emma described the moment she found out her mother was behind bars.

"I had a phone call from my sister and she said mum has gone to prison because of us not going to school, and I burst into tears," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I felt like it was all my fault because I am the one who had the most time off. I felt so guilty."

Bullying

Emma said bullying and her grandmother's death led to her truancy.

She said: "It started off when my nan died, it was a big shock to us.

"I was having like a week off then I was going back to school and I was getting bullied.

"I didn't want to see anybody in my class because I didn't speak to nobody."

The youngest daughter, Jackie, said she had begun to play truant after her grandmother died and her mother was left home alone.

She said: "I would sit there and worry because I knew my mum was on her own. I would go home because I would get worried."

Phil Willis Liberal Democrat education spokesman
Mr Willis called the sentencing 'draconian'
There was little her mother could do to persuade or force her back to school, she added.

The elder sister, Kerry, said the sentence was originally too harsh and would not work in every family, but added it had done some good with her siblings.

William Atkinson, head teacher of Phoenix High School in west London, said "the law of the land must be enforced".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 he said: "It is very important to separate those parents who are genuinely trying to get their youngsters to school... from those parents who really don't care and who are basically giving two fingers to the system.

Family issues

"It is very important all parents and students know the consequences."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis, a former head teacher, said he regarded the sentencing as "draconian".

"There were real issues occurring in their home.

"It is too easy to just go for simple draconian, Dickensian solutions to what are deep-rooted problems."

Amos, 43, was jailed for failing to ensure her daughters attended lessons at their Banbury comprehensive school.

Persistent truants

The move by Banbury Magistrates' Court was believed to be the first of its kind under powers gained in November 2000.

From September 2001 to February this year, the court was told, the older daughter, Emma, had attended only 55 out of 190 school registrations - a 29% record.

Her younger sister attended 64 of 190 school sessions - a 34% attendance rate.

But last week Judge Peter Crawford QC, at Oxford Crown Court, agreed to prosecution claims that a 28-day sentence would suffice.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sangita Myska
"Prison had been the right punishment"

Click here to go to Oxford

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Child truancy
Should parents be held responsible?
See also:

27 May 02 | UK Education
14 May 02 | England
13 May 02 | UK Education
16 Mar 00 | UK Education
23 May 02 | UK Education
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