Plymouth mum can't get son, 12, to go to school
A MOTHER has battled in vain with her 12-year-old son for three years to make him go to school.
Miranda Hammond, who received an official warning last week, now faces being hauled before a court if Ajay's truancy isn't curbed. But the mum said: "I'm happy to go to court if that means I will get some help."
Plymouth City Council prosecuted 67 parents for their child's irregular attendance during the last academic year.
Ajay is currently in Year 8 at Ivybridge Community College but outright refuses to go into school - attending on average one day a week.
At a meeting on Friday - held in Miranda's car because Ajay refused to get out and go into the school building - he was put on a 'fast track to attendance' scheme by an education welfare officer which means he has to attend school every day for four weeks.
Any unauthorised absence will result in a £60 penalty notice which Ms Hammond will have to pay.
Of the 67 council prosecutions this year, 24 were as a result of parents not paying the penalty notice.
Paying the notice discharges liability for the offence and no further action can be taken against the parent for the period of absences for which the notice was issued.
If unpaid, the council must prosecute the parent for the offence for failing to ensure the attendance of their child – not for non-payment of the fine as in the case of other fixed penalties.
Devon County Council issued 203 penalty notices during the last academic year, with 143 prosecutions.
Asked about Ms Hammond's case, a spokesman for Devon County Council said: "Parents have the ultimate responsibility to ensure their child attends school.
"Education welfare officers will work with schools and colleges to try and help with specific issues resulting in why students are not attending."
A spokeswoman for Ivybridge Community College said its attendance figure last year was 94.4 per cent - deemed to be outstanding by Ofsted.
She said: "We monitor attendance on a daily basis to promote the good habit of punctuality and good attendance.
"We have a robust system to track and support any students who may be absent. This begins with parents contacting the college if their child is absent and is further supported by an automated service to our parents.
"Letters may also then be sent to parents to highlight the college's concerns and opportunities and support is available for parents and students to attend meetings to further discuss attendance issues. The college also works in liaison with the Education Welfare Office."
She said the attendance policy is carried out to ensure and reinforce regular attendance and so minimise educational disadvantage through infrequent attendance.
In July mother-of-four April Sluggett, from Whitleigh, was taken to court by Plymouth City Council for allowing her 14-year-old son to play truant.
She was ordered to carry out unpaid work after her son spent just a single morning in the classroom.
I CAN'T STOP MY SON FROM SKIPPING SCHOOL
MIRANDA Hammond says she needs help to force her son to go to school and insists she will go to court if that is what it takes.
The mum, from Sparkwell, has four children but her 12-year-old son Ajay refuses to go in. She said she is "happy to go court" and that there has got to be "some sort of change".
The 37-year-old said: "I've been trying my hardest, I used to pull him out of bed and get him dressed, push him in the car and through the school gates, but I can't do that anymore.
"I'm 5ft 3inches and he's much bigger and stronger, he's built like a mini rugby player.
"He also knows the law and says that if I touch him that it's assault. I'm at my wits' end."
Ajay is in Year 8 at Ivybridge Community College.
Miranda said she called a meeting on Friday to discuss the issue further.
Now Ajay needs to attend school every day for four weeks under the 'fast track to attendance' scheme. Any unauthorised absence will result in a £60 penalty notice which Ms Hammond will have to pay.
However Ajay did not go in to school on Monday or yesterday, Miranda told The Herald.
"Why are they prosecuting me when it should be him?" she said. "If you've got a child that's stronger and bigger than you then what more can I do?"
Miranda has three other children aged 20, 18, and the youngest is seven, and she said all of them have regularly attended school with one currently at college.
"I've had enough and I'm absolutely sick of it. I'm going to write a letter to David Cameron. I don't understand what the problem is, something needs to be done, there must be other parents in my position. There's just got to be some sort of change.
"It's not fair, we need to fight back for changes to get some help. Why should I be prosecuted when I haven't done anything wrong? I'm doing all I can."
Miranda said the problems started when she fell 30ft down a quarry while Ajay and her youngest son were there.
"I thought he may be worried about me but it's been going on for years now.
"Then it was homework, then it was boring. He's very headstrong and does what he wants," she said.
Miranda has tried to make Ajay's life at home unappealing in a hope that will make him go in, but she says that's not helping either.
"I'm doing everything I possibly can, I take everything away to make it boring for him and I don't let him go to football training.
"Meetings are all well and good but where is the action? Police officers have come and he runs off, he hides in the woods, and then they go," she said.
Now Miranda is calling for all parents to stand united to try to make a change.
"People need to take notice and the MPs need to realise. They're not the ones who have to deal with all of this.
"I could get a fine or go to prison and how is that fair when I'm doing everything I can?
"It's even been said that I could go on a parenting course, but I need help not blame.
"I need to make a stand now. I don't want sympathy, there just needs to be some sort of change for other mums like me.
"Even if my son does start going to school I will continue to try and help others."
THE HERALD SAYS: A TIME TO GIVE HELP AS WELL AS PUNISHMENT
IT is an extraordinary situation – a mother who says she is powerless to make her 12-year-old son do what she tells him.
Miranda Hammond is no rookie parent, she has three other children – two of them adults – and each of them has attended school without a problem. But she insists there is nothing she can do to force her son Ajay to go to classes at Ivybridge Community College. On average he is attending just one day each week.
Miranda is not short of excuses. She blames her son’s size, she says she will write to the Prime Minister to demand action, she says it all started when she fell down a quarry, she wants MPs to recognise the issue and she wants parents to stand united to solve the problem. Miranda is outraged that the authorities are threatening to take her to court and not her own son – quick as a shot she asks: “Why are they prosecuting me when it should be him?”
What is missing from this mum’s long list of excuses is any sense of responsibility. It is her son and it is not up to the school, the council, other parents, MPs or the Prime Minister to teach her son how to behave, it is up to her.
That message has already been sent loud and clear with a warning and the threat of a fine.
However we, the broader community, have an obligation to this family. Perhaps you will look at Miranda and not be able to see further than the tattoos and piercings. That would be a great shame – she is first and foremost a woman appealing for help and that is exactly what she should be given. Simply punishing her for a situation which she is unable to escape - even if it is one of her own making - will not resolve the matter.
Whatever the reasons and responsibility for this extraordinary situation it is all our interests that it is sorted out and Ajay is not allowed to squander the most valuable thing he will ever possess – an education..