Parents Increasingly Made Responsible, Fined for Truancy

School authorities in Britain are taking truancy more seriously this year, new statistics released by the Department of Education reveal. According to the data, the number of parents forced to pay truancy fines is up 25% this year as the enforcement of measures designed to keep students from missing school has been stepped up.

More than 40,000 fines have been handed out this year, each for £60 (~$90 USD). Only about 33,000 fines were issued over the same period the year before.

Parents have 42 days to pay the fine or the matter will be taken further and families could be prosecuted. About 6,300 families had to appear before a judge for non-payment of fines in 2012 compared to about 5,600 the year before.

The number of pupils in primary, secondary, special schools and academies who missed at least a month of school – children known as “persistent absentees – fell to 5.2% from 6.1% the year before. There were 333,850 persistent absentees – 60,000 fewer than the year before. The coalition changed the definition of a persistent absentee in 2011 from a pupil who missed a fifth of the school year to one who missed a quarter.

The enforcement is up despite the fact that the number of students missing school has declined somewhat from the year before. The decline has been very modest though; in 2011, there were 370,000 students missing school on an average day. In 2012, the number had gone down to 327,000. This represented a decline from 5.6% of all students to 5.1%.

Britain isn’t the only country that’s encountering troubles with truancy. Earlier this year, two parents were convicted in separate cases for not doing enough to get their children to class in Scotland — although Scottish officials acknowledged that the students were refusing the go to school and acted in opposition to their parents, sometimes putting up a physical struggle.

In the case of a mother and daughter, the girl was physically larger than her mother, an hourly-wage laundry worker. The school had a welfare officer working with the family, but the sanctions the officer suggested to put on the girl led to a hysterical response and the mother gave up. She stopped meeting with the welfare officer and her daughter continued to be truant, attending 157 days out of 335. Although the mother pleaded not guilty, the Edinburgh Justice of the Peace court convicted and assigned her a fine of £150.

The punishment of the other person convicted – the father whose part-time employment made him primarily responsible for making sure his child attended school on schedule – was deferred both because the father had pleaded guilty and because the son had an attitude adjustment over the summer that promised that his attendance would be more regular in the future.