Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Should the parents of truants be jailed?

Rose Connor
Rose Connor was jailed for her son's truancy in 2006
A parent is jailed for their child's truancy every fortnight in England and Wales.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of truancy proceedings taken against parents, with 10,000 cases in 2007.

We asked for your thoughts on tackling truancy, and here is a selection of the many we received.

I am the pupil welfare manager in a pupil referral unit in Kent and work closely with the Education Welfare Officer. Over the last six years I have seen a huge increase in the number of families taken to court over attendance, with all the paperwork, monitoring and manpower going into this referral - which is not taken lightly - only to have the judge throw it out of court due to the family's financial and emotional situation it seems to be a complete waste of valuable time that could be best used in other ways!
Agnes, Rochester

My eldest child refused to go, no matter what we did, I was told that I could end up in jail, even though my other two children went and had no problems. A social services person said "if it was my child, I'd drag him to school"! Why target the parent? Target the offender, put these children in a secure place of learning for a month at a time, with strict discipline and no means of just doing what they want to do, they must learn that they have an obligation to society, instead they grow up knowing they can do what they want, when and where ever they wish to.
Michael, Bridgnorth

I was nearly prosecuted because my son was missing days at school. He wasn't playing truant he was being bullied (unknown to me at the time).The secondary school put me on fast track to prosecution. I had education welfare and the police hounding me day after day. It got to much so in the end i researched my rights and decided to take him out of school and home school him. I think the schools should try and find out why the kids are not attending . I was treated terrible and it wasn't our fault my son was very happy at school until this bullying started . As a single parent it was so stressful I wouldn't want any other people to go through the hell I did. Thank God he is nearly 16 and can go to college.
Rosemary, London

My daughter used to truant and was "usefully" expelled from school for it, in essence giving her what she wanted. After another school was found for her she continued to truant. I changed my work hours so i could physically deliver her to the school office and sign her in, returning in the afternoon to pick her up. Her grandparents and I approached the school to request that we sat with her all day in order to ensure she didn't leave the school premises, this was denied us. The school decided to "fast track" me despite all the measures i had put in place and tried to put in place. If i had been sent to prison i would have lost my job, my younger child would have been taken into care and i would have lost my home. My child didn't care and still doesn't. Thankfully she has now reached an age where she and this retarded law cant decimate my life any more.
Lisa, Nottingham

The Government are trying to take credit for 'authorised' absences going down while 'unauthorised' absences are spiralling out of control? Just how gullible to they think the public are?
Brian, England

This policy has been ridiculous from the day of its conception. Children will almost invariably find ways to miss school regardless of their family background or parental relationship. Granted, penalties are needed for severe or repeated cases but the blame cannot be attributed only to the parents.
Chris, London

Compliments to the BBC on this one. The technique of going back and doing long-term analysis of policy aims and outcomes reveals just how many stupid politicians we have. On The World at One Thursday 12th Feb I heard the insufferable and unelected Baroness Morgan demonstrating how she had been Svengalied by some faceless bureaucrat into defending to the death the incompetence of her department.
Sean, Liverpool

And who ensure the kids go to school when the parent is in prison ? Stupid system. They should make both the parent and the student go to school together and name and shame them within the community.
Susan, Manchester

I was an incorrigible truant in the 1970s, and now, after the passing of decades, viewing the matter with the perspective of age - I still fail to see why there is so much unquestioning support for the idea that children should be forced to attend school. Writing as an uneducated man, not being much of a scholar at all, I don't know whether to label the imprisonment of the parents of truants as Kafkaesque or Orwellian. One thing I do know is that the question at the top of this thread should be, "Did you use to.....?" rather than, "Did you used to.....?"
David, Oxford

When I reached the age of about 15 I played truant for several reasons: 1) I found school boring. 2) Truancy seemed a bit of a laugh. 3) others also did it. 4) I wanted to impress my mates. 5) Sometimes I didn't want to stretch myself Looking back I realise how important schooling is, and on reflection if faced with similar circumstances today I would commit 100% to studies. Although I've done reasonably well working for myself, I often reflect that I didn't get the qualifications to provide stronger tools to for my career. Truancy is a complete waste of time, and these schools kids are fools to themselves!
Carl, Carshalton, Surrey, England

My son, has truanted from his school, to the extent he is being moved to another school. My opinion is sending me to jail may shock him, but he may also carry on once I am back out, also, being a lone parent wouldn't really help the situation either. Kindest Regards.
, Bingley, West Yorkshire

I used to truant from school a little, but only when I had my worst lessons. And by worst, I mean the lessons when I was bullied the most. I actually liked the educational aspect of school and am now at university. Everybody links truancy with behavioural problems and trouble makers, and while it's true that a significant amount of truants could be put in that category, nobody ever mentions that some kids skip school simply because they can't stand to be bullied every day. Punishing the parents of these children would only exacerbate the situation, make them feel guilty and feel like there is no escape or respite from their tormentors. If the schools made more effort to find out WHY kids are truanting, instead of just collecting statistics about it, they would be able to deal with the problem in a better way.
Natalie, London

Parents have no practical power to force their children to go to school - handcuffing them to the desks would hardly be considered acceptable. Nevertheless it is the parents - not the children - who get punished for the children's absence. Since when has jailing people for offences committed by others been part of how a democratic society operates? And if the roots of truancy are in the breakdown of family life, how is destroying family life going to help? This law is a violation of basic human rights and must be scrapped.
Dan, Brighton, UK

I am currently studying in my second year of sixth form, five months short of starting university. last year I used to truant occasionally, and the reason for this was because I was having difficulty with my personal issues. as well as this, I strongly believe that students are truanting because they are bored and see it as a challenge. surely if teachers were to make lessons more enjoyable, instead of doing the same things all the time, then students may actually want to stay in lessons. personally i think that schools need to introduce a new way of teaching in order to reduce truanting.
Josh, Bradford

I never used to play truant at school. I was too frightened in case my dad got to know about it. Youths of today need the education as it is a hard life out there in the big world. Parents should be made to pay for their kids truanting as the kids just mess about and cause havoc to people who want to get on with their lives.
David, Manchester

Jailing parents was never going to work. You need to find out why youngsters do not want to be in school. It is not fair to send the parents to prison if the son or daughter does not attend school because he or she does not understand what the teacher is supposed to be teaching them. Maybe they cannot do their homework for various reasons.
Tim, Exmouth

I work law enforcement here in the US (Central Florida) and we noticed that as truancy numbers increased so did daytime crime - the biggest increase was in home burglaries. While not a proponent of jailing parents for not being able keep their kids in school, I feel the children themselves should be held accountable. If not in a truant center, take it one level higher and lock up the children for a week or two in juvenile detention.

Let us be honest, in this very turbulent financial time holding parents (some who work 60+ hours a week) responsible for little Jonnie or little Lisa skipping school is not going to solve anything. Hold the children responsible and maybe, just maybe, they might learn that their actions have consequences.
NiCK, Sanford, Florida

Parents are responsible for raising their children, not the government or any institution. Schools are their to educate, not to be substitute parents. Punishment should be the very last resort though, there needs to be more help available for parents who are having these troubles and parents need to be quick to seek help before problems become major issues.
Steve, Faversham

I truanted heavily during my primary and secondary school days. I truanted because there was literally no need for me to be in school.

I could achieve the scores I was naturally capable of on the tests I was set with one third of the classroom time I was offered. Thanks to a lack of discipline, a health and safety culture that stifles a child's natural desire to explore (along with the cuts and bruises that usually follow), and a teaching scheme that focuses on nothing more than test scores, why would a child really want to be in school?

Fix the education system so every child gets up in the morning and wants to be in school, and there will be no truancy problem.
Ben, Kenilworth

The real problem is that the "officials" are unwilling to ask why are so many children cutting school nor are they willing to listen to the answers. Most officials are so determined to push their personal agendas that they have become blind to a basic concept when dealing with children: Shut up for five minutes and listen to what they are saying"
Ron B, New York, USA

Whilst every child has a right to education, this may not necessarily be from a school. There are other ways that a child can be taught and by forcing this upon them we are also denying them and parents as to how they wish their children to develop.
Kwansah, London

Has anyone bothered to consider why these children do not want to go to school? Some of course are simply lazy and others who have simply been forced to say at school beyond to point where school can provide anything of further use.

But the group which is of particular concern to me is the one my son belongs to - this is the bright, talented group of white, working class males who are bored senseless by the third rate teaching they have received - two years ago his mathematical ability was judged to be in the top 5% nationally and he was admitted to the Nation Academy of Gift and Talented Youth, which proceeded to do absolutely nothing for him. Now, after one disinterested supply teacher after another he has gone from a predicted A* to a lucky to get a C in the maths/science subjects in this years exams. And of course there is the other hand, the political indoctrination and institutionalised bullying, brow beating and humiliating of white male boy by an increasing number of zealous feminists which now invest the teaching profession. When I went to school, school was pretty much a politically neutral zone. Now all that has changed. As an example, last week my son was accused of "Male Thinking" as a pejorative. The sub text of all this is that everything he is he should be ashamed of: male, white, English, patriotic, competitive, and a boy...... Now, you tell me why they don't like going to school.
T, Stonehouse, Glos.



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