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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 14:47 GMT
'War zone' schools condemned
School textbook
Some city schools are "like war zones" says a charity director
The director of a national charity says she would not send her children to some schools in Leeds because they are "war zones".

Frances Crook, the Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, was speaking after a Leeds mother was jailed because her children had not attended school regularly.

Beverley Fletcher, of Beeston, was jailed for a month on Tuesday after failing to send her two children to school.

Chris Edwards of Education Leeds, the organisation responsible for schools in the city, said the sentence sends out a clear message to parents.

But Ms Crook said prison was not the right place for parents who fail to send their children to school.

And she criticised some schools in the city as "more like war zones than schools."

'Dangerous' schools

She said: "We've got to look at what schools are like, the Howard League has worked with a Citizenship and Crime Prevention programme with 14,000 children.

"This includes many schools in Leeds, and I must tell you that some of the schools in Leeds that we went to were more like war zones than schools.

"I wouldn't want to send my child there, so I think there are serious problems that have to be addressed in the schools as well as with the parents.

"I would not send my child to some of the schools in Leeds, I think they are dangerous."

Responding to Ms Crook's criticism, Mr Edwards said: "We have some excellent schools here in Leeds and education in the city is improving day-by-day.

"While I recognise that many of our schools face challenges each day, to describe them as 'war zones' is simply wrong, and indeed insulting to the thousands of people working in our schools.

"We have committed and talented teaching and support staff working extremely hard to ensure that all our children and young people have every chance to succeed.

"This success is also due to our schools having strong, dynamic partnerships with parents, which encourages regular school attendance and achievement.

"I'd welcome the opportunity to visit any of our schools with a representative from the Howard League so they have the opportunity to meet our inspiring staff and students and see first-hand the excellent work going on in schools across the city."

Jailing Ms Fletcher the court told her the children's truancy record "couldn't be any worse."

Ms Fletcher said she had tried, but could not make her children go to school.

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