Truancy laws catch 32 parents in SELB area

Local parents are receiving criminal records for allowing their children to play truant from school.

Last year, the Southern Education and Library Board, which includes Dungannon District, launched 32 prosecutions against parents over their sons and daughters’ failure to turn up to lessons, the third highest total in Northern Ireland.

The figures, which were released last week by the Northern Ireland Assembly come at the same time as a crackdown on problem families who condone truancy.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said that the Education Welfare Service tries to work with children and their parents to facilitate improved attendance and improve educational outcomes.

“When parents or carers refuse to engage with the service or continually hamper engagement with them and their children, a decision may be made to progress the matter through the courts and a Parental Summons is sought.

“The parent or carer is then required to participate in the court process and commit to taking action to improve the child or young person’s school attendance.

“It would be important to note that parents are not prosecuted for a child’s absence from education. Rather parents are prosecuted for not co-operating with the Education Welfare Service who would want to support families who have been referred.”

Last September the government introduced tougher regulations on term-time absence for holidays.

Parents have a legal responsibility to ensure their child attends school, unless they have opted to home-educate them.

If they fail to do so, they are committing an offence under the Education Act 1996.

Parents can put in requests for term-time holidays, but these are granted or refused entirely at the head teacher’s discretion and are not a parental right.

The cost of a holiday is often lower during term time, with companies responding to higher demand by putting up prices during school breaks.