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South Somerset truants parents could be jailed
6:10am Friday 14th September 2012 in News
PARENTS who allow their children to go AWOL from school have been warned they will be taken to court.
As pupils went back to school last week, Somerset County Council has told parents and guardians to ensure children are turning up for lessons or face fines of up to £2,500 and the possibility of three months in prison.
The authority has just announced that a week of “truancy sweeps” by education attendance officers and police in April resulted in 118 children being stopped in the street or found at home.
Attendance at school improved for the majority following the sweeps, but legal action has been taken against 14 parents.
In South Somerset, two parents were given a total of £750 in fines for allowing their children to go AWOL from school.
A total of 45 children from South Somerset – which includes Chard, Ilminster, Crewkerne and South Petherton – were found out of school with no good reason during the truancy sweep.
The council said that 19 of those had improved attendance following the sweep, while eight penalty notices were issued, legal action instigated in two incidents, three cases in which parents had been invited to a pre-court meeting and the remainder were at various stages of the casework process.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, the council’s spokesman for children and families, said: “I am glad that the follow-up work from the attendance sweeps has been to such good effect with improved attendance by the vast majority of pupils identified earlier this year as being truant.
“It is regrettable that in some cases further action has become necessary, but I entirely support officers in their efforts to get all children to school.”
l THE council has refused to identify the schools from which pupils were found truant, but statistics show that the Somerset rate of persistently AWOL children is 6.2 per cent as opposed to the English average of 6.1 per cent and the South West average of 5.8 per cent.