One parent a week taken to court over truancy in Plymouth
PLYMOUTH parents are being taken to court over their skiving schoolchildren at a shocking rate of more than one per week.
A total of 45 mums and dads have been prosecuted for letting their youngsters bunk off school in the last ten months – and more are to come.
The Herald can reveal the figures after one city mother was in the dock over her teenage son's dismal attendance record.
Whitleigh widow April Sluggett was ordered to carry out unpaid work after her 14-year-old spent just a single morning in the classroom during May.
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Hers is one of 51 cases – including six involving repeat offenders – to have been taken to court by Plymouth City Council since September last year. And now a city education chief is warning of a looming rise in the number of parents feeling the strong arm of the law, as strict Government guidelines kick in.
Councillor Nicky Williams, the council's cabinet member for children and young people, said reducing parent-condoned absences was "one of Plymouth's biggest challenges".
Statistics show that pupils attending 85 per cent or more of their lessons perform significantly better in exams. The Government commissioned a report on truancy earlier this year, after education secretary Michael Gove spoke of the "missing million" who are persistently absent.
The Taylor Review has led to "persistent absence" being redefined as missing 15 per cent of school days and above, down from 20 per cent.
That means councils up and down the country are likely to target increasing numbers of parents over the coming months and years.
"Reducing truancy is a priority," Cllr Williams said. "It's proven that educational achievement is directly linked to attendance. One of our biggest challenges in Plymouth is to reduce parentally-condoned absence."
Parents are classified as condoning a day off school when the reason is anything other than genuine ill health or other extenuating circumstances, such as a death in the family. Cllr Williams said a large proportion of 'illnesses' among pupils were thought to be faked with the full knowledge of mums and dads, making them difficult to identify.
"It sets an incredibly bad example for young people," she said. "It teaches them that school is not that important. Parents and children must understand that there are consequences if they break the law and do not go to school regularly."
Two further city parents are expected before Plymouth Magistrates shortly for allegedly failing to ensure their children regularly attend class. The council says it works hard with schools to crack down on the issue, and offers an "enormous" amount of support before resorting to issuing penalty warnings or bringing prosecutions.