Children’s charities have reacted with dismay to the government’s latest measures to cut persistent truancy levels.
Under plans announced last week by schools minister Jacqui Smith, 146 secondary schools across England will have to identify their 8,000 most persistent truants and put their parents on the “fast track to attendance” scheme.
Any parent on the scheme whose child’s attendance does not improve over a 12-week period will automatically face prosecution and the possibility of a three-month prison sentence or fine of up to £2,500.
Responding to the move, Action on Rights for Children accused the government of “resorting to the same tired old bluster and macho threats”.
Insisting the government’s truancy policy would only make the situation worse, a spokesperson added: “It’s strange that a government so wedded to the management techniques of industry cannot recognise that the answer to a seemingly intractable problem isn’t to carry on doing even more of the same.”
NCH warned that there were many legitimate reasons why children missed school such as bullying and family separation. “Such factors have an impact on a child’s attendance and it is far better for schools to engage with parents and children looking to address the causes of truancy at an early stage, rather than issue the threat of prosecution,” said policy officer George McNamara.
Head of NCB’s pupil inclusion unit Jacqui Newvell also cautioned that punitive measures were not the answer. “We need to develop ways of supporting families in difficulty so that parents are better able to manage their own circumstances and their child’s behaviour,” she said.