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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Jailed truancy mother's release bid
BBC graphic showing school truants being questioned by police
The mother jailed for her daughters' truancy has been admitted to the prison hospital, while her lawyers prepare to seek her release on Wednesday.

Patricia Amos, sentenced to 60 days in jail for not ensuring that two her children attended school, will be the subject a bail application hearing on Wednesday at Oxford Crown Court.


What is the alternative, a heavy fine? This action may bring the family to its senses

David Hart, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers

If the bail bid is successful, Ms Amos will be released until her appeal is heard. If it is unsuccessful, her lawyers are hoping for an early date for an appeal.

The jailed mother is also believed to have been admitted to the hospital wing in Holloway prison.

Her solicitor, Stephen Warrington, says that it his understanding that she is in hospital, but that it is not an emotional breakdown or a consequence of her imprisonment.

Patricia Amos
Patricia Amos: Said to be "extremely upset"

Mr Warrington, who is to visit Ms Amos later on Tuesday, says that she is being treated for an ailment which she had prior to her sentence.

Earlier on Tuesday, the prosecution of the single mother was strongly defended by the education authority which brought the action.

Oxford Education Authority says it had a "duty" to ensure children attended school.

'Devastated'

Relatives said the daughters, Jackie, 13, and Emma 15, were "devastated" by the ruling.

It is believed to be the first time magistrates have passed such a sentence on a parent whose children are missing school.

Ms Amos had previously broken a parenting order imposed by the courts in an attempt to make her get her daughters to attend school regularly and had failed to turn up for a court hearing.

Magistrates gained powers to pass such a sentence in November 2000, when the maximum penalty in cases like this was raised from 1,000 to 2,500.

'Get pupils into school'

John Mitchell of Oxford Education Authority told the BBC: "We have a duty... to help try and ensure school attendance."

He said: "Parliament has provided this framework of legislation and our role is to try and get pupils into school.

"We bring about 15 cases a year for prosecution, most of which will not go anywhere near this level of sanction."

Jackie and Emma are being cared for by an older sister, Kerry.

Kerry said: "They are upset, they want her home. They're putting on a brave face but they're going back to school."

Marion Williams, from the Parent Teachers' Association, condemned the jailing as harsh and ineffective.

She said: "This is one individual amongst many and it seems a very weak target and a very harsh sentence.

"A lot of children who are disaffected with schools really would not care if their parents went to prison."

Kerry Cowman
Kerry Cowman: "They just want their mum back"

But Education Secretary Estelle Morris has welcomed the jail sentence, saying she hoped it would send a "shock wave" to Britain's parents.

She recently called for police to be stationed in comprehensive schools in a bid to improve attendance and behaviour in England's worst street crime and truancy "hot spots".

David Hart, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "It is a severe sentence but the powers are there.

"What is the alternative, a heavy fine?

"They have tried to bring this parent to her senses and understand that if her children do not go to school they are going to suffer and the family are going to suffer.

"This action may bring the family to its senses."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
John Mitchell from Oxfordshire County Council
"We have been engaged with the family for a period of two years"
Solicitor for Patricia Amos, Stephen Warrington
"The length of time imposed was excessive"

Click here to go to Oxford

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

13 May 02 | Education
Parents told to get in line
16 Mar 00 | Education
Truants' parents face jail
29 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair defends truancy crackdown
29 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Truant plan sparks split
29 Apr 02 | Education
Playing truant wrecks life chances
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