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Welsh parents facing truancy fines

21/05/2013 Joanna
The Welsh government is introducing fines for parents of regularly truanting children, as part of its efforts to aid secondary teachers in bolstering these pupils' performance.

Official figures indicate the average truancy rate across Welsh secondary schools in 2011-12 was 1.4 per cent, although it was significantly higher in some local education authorities, with Cardiff having the worst rate at 2.9 per cent.

While progress has been made on this issue since 2005-06, Wales' education minister Leighton Andrews believes further improvement is integral to helping staff in teaching jobs increase educational attainment.

Now the government has announced that, following consultation, it will as of September introduce fixed penalty notices of £60 for parents whose children regularly miss school.

These fines will be doubled if parents do not pay them within 28 days, while those who ignore them entirely could be taken to court.

A total of 53 people responded to the consultation, with 55 per cent stating fines were a good method for tackling persistent truancy, compared to just seven per cent who disagreed.

Support was less strong though for increasing these fines upon non-payment, with 34 per backing this policy, whereas 28 per cent opposed it.

In a written statement, Mr Andrews explained: "The penalty notice system is an additional option that can be used as part of local authority intervention strategies for less entrenched attendance issues.

"The intention of a local code of conduct, should a local authority choose to implement within their area, is to allow local authorities and schools take into consideration local and individual circumstances."

However, National Union of Teachers Wales policy officer Owen Hathaway warned introducing fines could undermine the improvement already being made in attendance levels by alienating parents and damaging school-community relations.

The Welsh opposition parties also criticised Mr Andrews' plans, with Conservative education spokesperson for Wales Angela Burns stating fixed penalties would hit the most vulnerable hardest and ignored the real causes of truancy.

Ms Burns' criticisms were echoed by her Liberal Democrat counterpart Aled Roberts, while Simon Thomas from Plaid Cymru said policies should be designed to support families in reducing truancy and that fining parents for their children's absenteeism had not worked in England.

Posted by Harriet McGowanADNFCR-2164-ID-801588658-ADNFCR
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