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Stop persecuting parents whose kids won’t go to school

Comment 7th July 2010

Repeal Section 444 of the Education Act 1996, or, If it is still felt necessary to retain this section, then at least repeal Section 444 (1A).

Why does this matter?

The only reason for section 444 was that truancy was not an offence (and it always seemed wrong that you could be prosecuted for allowing something that was not an offence), but it has since been included in The Anti-Social Behaviour Act as an offence, and therefore the actual truant can now be punished. However, as far as I know, nobody has yet been prosecuted for this new offence although hundreds of parents are still being dragged to court under the Education Act every week.

Section 444 (1A), which criminalises parents for the wrongdoings of their children, has resulted in over 200 parents being jailed (for up to 51 weeks [increased by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act], which is more than you can get for driving without due care), tagged with a curfew for up to 3 months or given up to 200 hours Community Service. Until Blair, the offence of failing to ensure that your kids went to school was a misdemeanour and this is what it should remain.

No young child should be put through the trauma of having their parent(s) sent to jail, (one 9 year old had her mother sent to jail over Christmas and New Year) especially for something as trivial as this (and no matter how many EWOs say it is very serious, in the big scheme of things, it is right at the bottom of the scale). It shows how ludicrous this section is when both parents of a 3 years old and 18 month old baby get sent to jail for 3 months because their 15 years old brother wouldn't go to school.

It is equally wrong for parents of teenagers to be jailed when everybody (other than politicians, EWOs and magistrates) know that it can be next to impossible to get them to school if they don't want to go. Parents have been jailed even though they have taken the kid to school. but the child has sneaked out again once the parent has left (it would seem that the schools have no responsibility).

This is a pernicious piece of legislation which seems to be designed to give Education Welfare Officers bragging rights at their Conference as to how many parents they have been instrumental in being sent to jail. The inception of 444 (1A) has not reduced the figures, because more time is spent on prosecution than in trying to find out why the children are playing truant.


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