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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Parents jolted by truancy jailing
teacher taking register
Attendance is said to have improved
Head teachers say truancy rates have dropped following the jailing of a mother over her daughters' non-attendance at school.

Patricia Amos was jailed for 60 days after action brought by Oxfordshire education authority.

This was reduced to 28 days on appeal - and she was released after less than two weeks - but the appeal court upheld the principle of a prison sentence.

Head teacher Brian Lightman said the effect on others had been dramatic.

"I have noticed a very interesting 'knock on' effect with other parents who have in the past condoned truancy," said Mr Lightman, head of St Cyres secondary in Penarth, Cardiff.

Holidays

"They are very worried now and are redoubling their efforts to make their children attend.

"It could therefore be that, whilst one family has had to pay a high price the effect on truancy in general could be a reduction."

He said things would be helped further if the government did not send out a "mixed message" by allowing parents to take their children out of school in term time - which they can do for 10 days a year.

Mr Lightman's experience seems to be common, according to the National Association of Head Teachers.

Its general secretary, David Hart, said: "We are seeing parents coming into school bringing children who have not been seen for weeks or even months, saying 'I'm not going to jail for you'," he said.

Ultimate sanction

"It is not a coincidence. It is a direct response to the jailing - whether it has a long-term effect is in the lap of the gods."

But he believes the jailing will give teachers more leverage to force parents to accept their responsibilities.

"Fines and parenting orders are very important but there is nothing that can be quite as imposing as jail," he said.

In more than 30 education authority areas a truancy "sweep" is said to have turned up 627 primary school pupils and 1,483 secondary school students who were out of school without good reason.

Nine in every 10 were with their parents.

Excuses ranged from "I don't like Monday mornings" to dental appointments which turned out not to have existed.

The figures relate to the first two weeks of a month-long action.

See also:

27 May 02 | UK Education
23 May 02 | UK Education
13 May 02 | UK Education
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