Nearly 12,000 parents were prosecuted last year for failing to send their children to school. Just over 9,000 were found guilty under UK truancy laws and while two-thirds of those received a fine, 25 were given a jail sentence.
The number of parents being caught out by truancy laws is steadily rising. In 2005, the number of prosecutions was far lower, around 4,000.
Earlier this year, education secretary Michael Gove claimed there is “an ironclad link between illiteracy, disruption, truancy, exclusion and crime.” He is calling for tougher sanctions on parents.
“When fines are imposed for truancy they are often reduced to take account of an adult’s expenditure on satellite TV, alcohol and cigarettes. And many appear to shrug off fines and avoid existing sanctions, refusing to take responsibility for their actions. So we need to review the sanctions schools, police, the courts and the government, have available,” Michael said.
But critics are concerned that prosecuting parents is not the best way to encourage children and families back into the school system.
“Schools would always wish to avoid taking this route. It is clearly better by far to work with parents rather than prosecute them,” said Christine Blower, from the National Union of Teachers (NUT). “Working alongside the relevant support services and local authorities to ensure that parents are supported and pupils get the education they need is essential another reason to be alarmed at the cuts of local authority budgets which threaten such provision.”
The government found that more than 450,000 children regularly missed school between autumn 2010 and spring 2011 – that’s 7% of the school population.