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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Parents hit with truanting fines
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Fines of up to 50 per child can be issued
Parents in England have been ordered to pay 1,134 on-the-spot 50 fines for children's truancy since the start of the school year.

Government figures also show 11,500 have been put on "fast-track" schemes, where they face prosecution if pupils' attendance does not improve quickly.

Parents who still fail to get their children to school could face fines of up to 2,500 or three months in prison.

Some 2,200 have signed "parenting contracts" to ensure attendance.

'Seizing the tools'

In one local authority, these had resulted in a 30% reduction in pupil absence, the Department for Education and Skills said.

Schools Minister Jacqui Smith said the figures showed that schools and local education authorities were "seizing the tools we have given them".

She said a "very small number of pupils" accounted for almost half of the nation's truancy.

"We will continue to support local education authorities and schools facing the greatest challenges with targeted action that we know works in improving attendance.

"We will also not hesitate to support them in using sanctions for those parents who condone their child's truancy."

Escalating fines

Education authorities have had the power to charge parents of truants on-the-spot fines of 50 since February last year.

If these are not paid within 28 days the cost rises to 100. Parents could face prosecution if the money is not handed over within six weeks.

This, according to the government, is a "simple sanction" designed to focus parents' minds on their responsibilities.

Overall absence in the spring term in England's state schools was 7.42%, up from 6.17% during the autumn.

For secondary schools it was 8.08%, up from 7.38%, while for primaries it was 6.25%, from 5.13%.

These termly DfES figures do not distinguish at this stage between authorised and unauthorised absence, including truancy.

Your comments

The government is reducing parents' powers to discipline their children and then at the same time telling them that they have to do something about truancy and general behaviour. How are they supposed to do that if they have no power to do anything?
Bob, UK

Is this fine a good thing? It completely depends on what you count as truancy.... if it's the kids hanging around on the streets or in shopping malls with the parents not knowing or caring that's one thing. But if its the parents allowing the kids to stay home due to cases of bullying or discrimination that the school is unwilling or incapable of doing anything about its a completely different matter
Simon, London

Parents need support not punishment
Alf, Edinburgh, Scotland
No I do not agree with these fines. First, it affects only parents with children in state education. Second, it assumes that the state knows better than the parent. Finally is assumes that the parent is able to control the child. Parents need support not punishment.
Alf, Edinburgh, Scotland

Yes, on the spot fines for truancy is a must. Parents of children not attending compulsory education should be made aware that they have the responsibility to send their children to school. It is not the responsibility of the education establishments to ensure that the children turn up. The schools teach the children there and report those who bunk off. Many parents couldn't care less if their children fail to turn up but if it costs them money then they will take more interest.
Henry, Surrey

The fact is that actions like this are dangerous. In reality if a teenager wants to go off the rails there is very little you can do to stop them. Short of 'giving in' and having the child put in care, or, even worse, having them live on the streets, parents actually have very little power in these cases. Fining them helps nobody.
John, Edinburgh

I disagree with applying on-the-spot truancy fines without understanding the reason for the truancy. I think that the fine needs to be applied after understanding the reason for the absence. There should be a distinction between people taking leave for holidays and people going to visit their country of origin due to factors like unsuitable climate, marriage in the family etc. For example I come from that part of India where the temperatures reaches 45 degrees centigrade during the summer (July-August) when it is vacation time in this country. Not to mention the fact that there is no electricity for hours in the days. Winter time is the only time it is okay to visit as the climate is fine. Also what should be taken into account is the intent of the parents and their commitment to the education of their children during the term time. One suggestion would be to provide one valid leave of 1-2 weeks during term time for people who need to take their children to visit country of origin if they provide the commitment to make up for the lost work.
Sandy, London

Keep the fines but make it higher say 200 that would make the parents think twice
David Quinton, England

Totally agree with it. Many parents really couldn't care less if their children are at school or not. This is down to total lack of parenting skills, as they have no control over their children's behaviour. Keep the fines but make it higher say 200 that would make the parents think twice.
David Quinton, England

Yes I do think these fines a good idea. I know someone who's daughter can't be bothered to get up in the mornings....ongoing for 3 years, yet still nothing has been done. I work hard and pay enough in tax etc only to see this sort of thing going on...come on government get your act together and sort these people out quickly!
Nicola, Falmouth

Again the Government have shown that they excel in finding ways of taking money from those who have the least. Little Johnny didn't go to school last week so we won't be eating this week, nice!
John, Leigh, Lancs

What happens when the parent does all that they can to make sure the child is delivered to school but the child then leaves the school premises without the parent's knowledge? Are the parent's still held to be responsibly for something they cannot control? Shouldn't the school take responsibility in this case, after all, are they not responsible for the children whilst in their care? The school and parents surely would need to liaise together in this case, but a child determined to leave school once there may be difficult for parents alone to control.
Tracey, Eastleigh, UK

I strongly feel that parents should have the main role to ensure children going school regularly. If they fail, then definitely they should be punished. The government should monitor the attendance strictly through Schools. I hope it will also reduce Anti-Social Behaviour, Youth Crime etc.
Emdad Talukder, London (North Kensington) England

I agree wholeheartedly with the fines. Back when I was at school (I left 4 years ago) not enough was done to stop truancy, bad behaviour and other preventable things. The problem got worse after I left, I believe, as neighbours of the school got bricks through windows and abuse shouted at them. Anything to help prevent this is a good idea.
Dawn Hazle, Shenfield, UK

It depends what is meant by truancy. As a child, despite every effort made by my parents and the local authority, I simply did not want to go to school, and would leave and go back home to sneak indoors and hide from my parents. I was not roaming the streets causing trouble - I was simply "schoolphobic" and did not see why I had to go somewhere each day I did not like. I had no problem at all with learning (I now have undertaken education to postgraduate level) - it was the compulsion which rankled, and still does. So why should my parents have been fined for my actions, even if they were strictly speaking legally responsible for sending me to a place I hated?

Ultimately I was placed with a home tutor from the local authority, with whose assistance I was able to pass my CSE and A levels with a high grade - but fining people is not the way to help get children to attend school, let alone putting people into already overcrowded jails. The only solution is to match the learning requirements of the child to the best solution for them, not the school or even the parents: and certainly not for politicians' desire to be seen to be tough on truancy.
Anon, London

Surely it would be better to tackle the underlying socio-economic causes of truancy than just fine people
Russell, UK
Surely it would be better to tackle the underlying socio-economic causes of truancy than just fine people. This seems to be a recurring solution with this government, tackle issue x by fining y and claim the overall result z is better than before. Motoring offences is another classic example, rather than education, fines are used instead, and the government swells its coffers, but the fined individual has a lighter wallet, lost faith in justice and the system and not really learnt anything of value? Treat the cause, not a symptom!
Russell, UK

Whilst I fully accept that the Government needs to try and stop truancy, I do not think this is the correct way to go about it. I am not a parent and this will therefore not affect me, but I do not agree that parents should be given fines for their children not attending school because of a family holiday, nor should parents face imprisonment or prosecution. Once again this Government has found a way to increase their revenue by the back door, just like speed cameras, after all does anyone really know where these 'fines' go? As for imprisonment for failing to make a payment is completely over-the-top.
Darren Bradshaw, Worcester, UK

Fined when your out-of-control child doesn't attend school, fined for smoking in your own home. What's next? Fined for having a dirty car? One sure way to reduce crime is to reduce the number of criminal offences. The way Britain's going, just about every man, woman and child have the propensity to be a lawbreaker. What a good way to keep the population cowed and uncomplaining. Police State here we come, or rather there you go. I've already emigrated, suggest you UK residents follow suit.
Andrew Milner, Yokohama, Japan

Yes truancy is a problem but shouldn't the schools get some of the blame? My daughter recently came home saying she had spent all day doing menial jobs such as passing messages to staff and running errands for the admin staff. When asked about classes attended on that day she informed me that you spent the day at the whim of the admin office staff. She went on to say that most students picked to carry out this 'chore' would not attend school that day mainly due to the menial nature of the job. The question is why are the students doing the employed staff's jobs and not being able to attend class. The schools should get its own house in order before it blames everybody else. Can we fine the teachers when they fail to turn up for work?
Mr T, Swindon UK

I hardly agree - the responsibility needs to be with the child not the parent. I was a persistent truant as a child (I am now a teacher) and back then (60s and 70s) it was the child who was held responsible for attendance, which was why I was up before the juvenile court on two occasions and was told in no uncertain terms that if I came up a third time, then I would be sent to a residential unit away from home. Yes, fine parents who deliberately don't send their children to school, or alternatively make them educate them at home, but at the end of the day, knowing they have a legal requirement to attend school - and could face time 'inside' if they don't meet it, should be the first lesson you give to a child about their own personal responsibility.
Shaun, London, England

I think that this is a difficult issue. Obviously, if a parent actively encourages their child to skip school then they should be punished appropriately. However, especially in the case of teenage children it is not always easy to know where they are. If they tell their parents that they are going to school and then go shopping, I'm not sure that the parents can do a lot. After all, how can they be punished if they were convinced that they child was in the classroom? The other issue of course is the well-touted 'Respect' that politicians across the spectrum are blaring out at the moment. Kids have to understand that school isn't optional, and that attending can give them a much brighter future than sitting in bus stops and getting drunk.
Anon, London, UK

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