Truants' parents could face benefits cut, says PM


Prime Minister, David Cameron: "I know this will be a tough measure"

Parents of children in England who regularly play truant could have their benefits cut, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

The government's social policy review, set up in the wake of the recent riots, has been asked to consider the move, he said in a speech about education.

Discipline and rigour were needed to mend a "broken society", he said.

And parents needed to know there were consequences to their inaction, he added.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Cameron said discipline needed to be restored in schools, and teachers and head teachers were being given the tools to do this.


He added: "But restoring discipline is also about what parents do. We need parents to have a real stake in the discipline of their children, to face real consequences if their children continually misbehave.

"That's why I have asked our social policy review to look into whether we should cut the benefits of those parents whose children constantly play truant.

Start Quote

We want to create an education system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure.”

End Quote David Cameron

"Yes, this would be a tough measure - but we urgently need to restore order and respect in the classroom and I don't want ideas like this to be off the table."

Plans to cut benefits payments of parents whose children played truant were brought forward under Tony Blair's Labour government, but were scrapped in 2002.

Instead, penalty notices for truancy were introduced. These can be issued to parents by head teachers, council officers and the police and lead to fines of £50 - doubled to £100 if parents fail to pay up in 42 days.

If these fines remain unpaid for a further 42 days, a prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000 can follow.

Between 2004 to August 2009, 69,436 penalty notices were issued for irregular attendance; 88 were issued for excluded pupils found in a public place during school hours since September 2007.

'Intolerance of failure'

Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "What is needed to improve pupil attainment is adequate resourcing for all schools, properly qualified and reflective teachers, and continuing funding for family and youth services to support those pupils and families who need it.

"Alienating the parents of persistent truants is not likely to help - these are the parents who need the most support with their children to get them to participate in education and training."

Mr Cameron made the comments at the opening of one of England's first free schools, the Norwich Free School.

He said he wanted to see schools like it "replicated many, many times up and down the country".

Critics have called free schools, which are state-funded but privately run, socially divisive and unaccountable.

The schools are being set up by parents, teachers, faith groups and other organisations.

Some Lib Dems have opposed free schools amid fears they could be socially divisive, but Mr Cameron says both parties are behind the scheme.

"A free school is born of a real passion for education - a belief in its power to change lives.

"It's a passion and a belief this coalition shares. We want to want to create an education system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure," he said.

Twenty-four out of the first wave of free schools are opening this term.

They operate as academies, and like them, do not have to follow the national curriculum, can vary the pay and conditions of teachers, are directly funded by central government and are outside of local authority control.

'Good citizens'

The government says free schools will meet parental demand in areas where there is a shortage of places, and help drive up standards by providing competition.

But critics argue they will take pupils and money from other schools at a time of cutbacks and could break up the state education system.

Of the 24 free schools opening this month, nine are faith-based or have strong religious ethos, six are parent- or teacher-led and five will be run by trusts already running academies.

Mr Cameron also said that classroom reforms were required to produce a new generation of "good citizens".

He said: "We've got to be ambitious if we want to compete in the world. When China is going through an educational renaissance, when India is churning out science graduates any complacency now would be fatal for our prosperity.

"And we've got to be ambitious, too, if we want to mend our broken society.

"Because education doesn't just give people the tools to make a good living - it gives them the character to live a good life, to be good citizens."

But the National Union of Teachers said the free schools and academies programme was "a divisive and unnecessary experiment".

Its general secretary, Christine Blower, said government cuts were hitting the youth provision and local support services which she said were needed to help ensure young people could reach their potential and be good citizens.

Bradford Science Academy Rainbow Free School, Bradford Batley Grammar School, Kirklees Maharishi School, Lancashire Sandbach School, Cheshire East Nishkam Free School, Birmingham Krishna Avanti Primary School, Leicester Priors Free School, Warwickshire The Free School, Norwich Stour Valley Community School, Suffolk Moorlands School, Luton Langley Hall Primary Academy, Slough Bristol Free School, Bristol All Saints Junior School, Reading Discovery New School, West Sussex Aldborough E-ACT Free School, Redbridge Eden Primary, Haringey, North London Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School, Mill Hill, London Ark Atwood Primary Academy, Westminster Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy, Edmonton, London West London Free School, Hammersmith, London Ark Conway Primary Academy, Hammersmith & Fulham Canary Wharf College, Tower Hamlets St Luke's Church of England Primary School, Camden, north London

Bradford Science Academy

Secondary school, taking 140 children a year. Led by Bradford-born teacher Sajid Hussain.

Rainbow Free School, Bradford

Primary school set up by the social enterprise body Asian Trade Link, with support from cricketer Imran Khan.

Batley Grammar School, Kirklees

Mixed private school returning to the state sector under the free schools programme.

Maharishi School, Lancashire

Non-selective independent school for ages 4 - 16. Teaches transcendental meditation and is transferring to the state sector.

Sandbach School, Cheshire East

Boys' secondary school which was technically independent, but fully-funded by Cheshire County Council and a local authority school.

Nishkam Free School, Birmingham

Primary school run by the Nishkam Education Trust "the first state-funded, Sikh ethos, multi-faith school in the Midlands".

Krishna Avanti Primary School, Leicester

Hindu faith school run by the I-Foundation. Children will eat vegetarian meals and practice yoga and meditation.

Priors Free School, Warwickshire

Small private primary school with just 60 places, returning to the state sector.

The Free School, Norwich

A primary school opening in a Georgian house which was previously used as offices.

Stour Valley Community School, Suffolk

Secondary school set up after a campaign by parents, on the site of an existing middle school was facing closure.

Moorlands School, Luton

An independent prep school transferring to the state sector.

Langley Hall Primary Academy, Slough

Set up by a husband and wife team, the school is "underpinned by Christian principles".

Bristol Free School, Bristol

Parent-led secondary school, opening to Year 7 pupils in temporary buildings. An educational trust will run the school.

All Saints Junior School, Reading

School for 7 to 11 year olds, run by the educational trust CfBT. It will take up to 25 children, all in its youngest age group, each year.

Discovery New School, West Sussex

Montessori primary school with "a Christian character in the Anglican tradition".

Aldborough E-ACT Free School, Redbridge

Primary school run by a charitable trust set up by E-ACT

Eden Primary, Haringey, North London

Jewish primary school "independent of any synagogue authority" and open to all members of the Jewish community.

Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School, Mill Hill, London

Jewish primary with "very strong link with the local community and Mill Hill United Synagogue". Space for 28 children in reception.

Ark Atwood Primary Academy, Westminster

Primary school run by the education charity Ark.

Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy, Edmonton, London

"Sister school" to a nearby over-subscribed primary, Cuckoo Hall Academy. Will eventually have 420 pupils.

West London Free School, Hammersmith, London

Mixed, non-selective secondary taking 120 pupils a year, set up by a parents' group led by writer Toby Young, as a "grammar school for all".

Ark Conway Primary Academy, Hammersmith & Fulham

One-form entry school set up by the Ark education charity.

Canary Wharf College, Tower Hamlets

Christian school with an average class size of 20. Open for children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

St Luke's Church of England Primary School, Camden, north London

Parent- and church-led, set up in a church hall, with places for those living closest to the school.

More on This Story

Academies and free schools

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 327.


    Statistically, more affluent children truant far less - it is the PARENTS responsibility to ensure their children's attendance at school.

    Besides, if you are a higher rate tax payer you can't have your benefits cut anyway, so the exisiting £2500 fine or 3 months in prison is sufficient deterrant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    The problem is "focussing on the needs of the individual".

    Mainstream schools should focus on the needs of society.
    Children need to be educated, not pandered to, and those who cannot, or will not, cope, need to be educated, perhaps in the same buildings, but outwith the ordinary classroom.
    For too long the state system has been a convoy scheme; going at the speed of the slowest child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    "Because education doesn't just give people the tools to make a good living - it gives them the character to live a good life, to be good citizens."

    Total fantasy.

    There are plenty of highly educated people who are despicable. And likewise there are plenty of kind and altruistic uneducated people.

    Typical tory view: Poor = uneducated = bad person. Rich = well educated = holy saint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    272.Jane Cross
    Could someone point me in direction of these generous benefits I am not aware of? My benefit buys food, elec & gas!

    Google is your friend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    "We want to create an education system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure.”We want to create a banking system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure.” We want to create a parliamentary expenses system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure.” With respect wouldn't blah, blah, mean as much?

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    why should you be punished for what someone else (who you may have little or no control over) does?

    how can parents ensure their children go to school when many of them have to juggle several jobs to keep food on the table?

    if the government is so desperate to stop truancy, why not put more policemen on the streets to get those kids from the streets and into school?

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    Totally agree with you. I feel that child benefit is outdated it should be scrapped and incorporated within means tested benefits so only the needy get it. However on this note how come parents whinge about the cost of uniforms, school dinners etc when CB is there to assist with this? It is not my resposibility to pay for other peoples children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    I agree but only if tax loopholes and other means of punishing wealthy pupil parents were also invented. Or are only certain parts of society broken?

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    Incidentally - I am a full-time employee (and was at the time) and tried my damnedest to make my daughter go to school and stay there, so lay off those on benefits, this is a problem across the board. What is the proposal for parents whose children truant who are not on benefits at all, or only on a minimal amount of benefit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    In the headline link it reads "Benefits cut warning over truancy"

    I clicked thinking that persistent truants were to be excluded from the benefits system when they reached claimable age.

    We should help those who help themselves and absenting yourself from school is not self-helpful at all. It does however stop them being disruptive for those who do want to learn so some good comes out of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    has the world gone mad, how on earth will taking away benefits help anyone or anything, i smell a red herring to cover something else the other day we had one to occupy the press (complicit) while the nhs bill was be voted through to the detrement of future services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    I was a regular truant during my last two years of secondary school (this was 20 years ago) and there was nothing my parents could have done to stop me.My dyslexia was not something my overworked and under resourced school picked up on. Instead no matter how hard I worked I was told that I was lazy and could do better. So why bother. Don't punish the parents and fund schools instead of banks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    I agree, child tax credits and child benefit are given to take responsibility for the child. I'd say if a child only attend school 75% of the time in one term, then in the 3 months after that term the parents should only get 75% of the benefit for being responsible for that child. Current prosecution methods aren't working, hurting the wallets definitely will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    One area of education seriously lacking is in the attrociously low number of male teachers, especially for kids with no good male role models.

    This is a main reason why ex-military are being fast tracked into teaching, not just for discipline, also because military are not associated with pedos, fears of sexual claims & perceptions of men around kids puts off males from going into teaching.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Yes, yes this is all very well......meanwhile back in the real world the economic hopes of this country is going down the drain due to these bunch of amateurs.

    The Great con continues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    268.Eames - Houlliers transfers are Makoun me crazy
    4 Minutes ago

    EVERY parent can claim child benefit. So ALL parents are on benefits or are entitled to be so.

    Therefore the parents of ALL truants are on benefits.

    Therefore you can safely cut or remove the benefits of parents whose children truant.

    your right, maybe they were truants !

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Probably the dumbest idea I've ever heard. Lots of children are bullied at school, and lots of school managements are completely useless when it comes to such issues, or are unpleasant to the child themselves. Punishing the parents, who often have jobs which mean they can't accompany their child to school, is a great way of ignoring the real issue, and stinks of New Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    It is a crazy system which takes kids and turns them into robots competing with each other for advantage in the wage-slavery market.If you are born poor you are likely to die poor.No reforms will overcome this.Replace 'Capitalism'.."with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Pointing the finger at the Unemployed again... but they are not the only examples of poor Parenting discipline. So will the Govt. be issuing mandatory Detachment of Earnings Orders for WORKING people whose children are habitual truants and/or miscreants ? They abound in equal quantities on either side of the line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Another populist attack on the poorer sections of society.

    It's basically discrimination against those on benefits, a fine would be a fair way to deal with this, your employment status should not be a factor. Essentially it's a cheap way of avoiding having to take someone to court.

    Is he proposing to dock employed peoples wages at source if their children have been playing truant.


Page 50 of 66


More Education & Family stories



  • Shinji Mikamo's father's watchTime peace

    The story of the watch that survived Hiroshima

  • Northern League supporters at the party's annual meeting in 2011Padania?

    Eight places in Europe that also want independence

  • Elephant Diaries - BBCGoing wild

    Wildlife film-makers reveal the tricks of the trade

  • Hamas rally in the West Bank village of Yatta, 2006Hamas hopes

    Why the Palestinian group won't back down yet

  • A woman dining aloneTable for one

    The restaurants that love solo diners

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.