Prosecutions failing to make difference

Prosecuting parents for their child’s truancy fails to improve
attendance at school, according to research.

No link was found between the number of court cases against parents
and the improvement or reduction in school attendance rates between
1999 and 2002.

Principal education welfare officer of Kingston upon Thames local
education authority Ming Zhang, who examined data from 43
authorities, said: “We should not rush towards the approach of
reliance on more court cases, more fines or even more jailing of
parents to combat truancy.”

He said absenteeism was often a symptom of other problems at home
and that professional support for parents would be more effective
in addressing those issues than a court summons.

Zhang added that it was time for older pupils to take more
responsibility for their own actions.

“Serious consideration should be given to amend the attendance laws
in such a way that would allow older truants to be prosecuted,” he

Meanwhile, a report by charity Parentline Plus urges the government
to tackle the underlying reasons behind truancy rather than blaming
and punishing parents. It follows an analysis of calls to its
24-hour free helpline.

Most parents do not collude with their children’s behaviour and are
desperate for help to address the underlying causes of their
child’s truancy, it finds. It also backs Zhang’s claims that
truancy is often linked to other difficulties, including low
educational achievement, substance misuse and crime.

Chief executive Dorit Braun said: “We hope with the implementation
of the antisocial behaviour white paper, children at risk green
paper and the parenting fund, the gap between need and provision
for parents will be addressed.”

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