Education & Family

Michael Gove: Stronger sanctions for truants' parents

Media captionMichael Gove: ''We need to ensure every child is in school'

Tougher penalties are to be brought in for parents who do not ensure their children "attend school ready to learn", Education Secretary Michael Gove has said.

The BBC understands the measures could include reducing parents' child benefit if their children play truant.

In a speech to a think tank, Mr Gove pledged to tackle the "root causes of truancy and misbehaviour".

He also pledged to "eliminate" illiteracy and innumeracy.

In his speech to the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, Mr Gove pledged "stronger sanctions" for parents who did not "play their full part in guaranteeing good behaviour" - if the Conservatives won next year's general election.

'Transformative effect'

In March government data showed record numbers of parents had been issued with truancy fines as the numbers of persistent truants fell.

BBC education correspondent Gillian Hargreaves said she understood Mr Gove wanted to deduct money from child benefit if parents refused to pay truancy fines.

The proposal was originally suggested in 2011 by Charlie Taylor, the government's education adviser on school discipline, but was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Although local authorities have the power to pursue parents for payment, many do not do so because of the cost. Some 20,000 fines are unpaid each year.

Image caption Mr Gove wants to deduct money from child benefit when parents refuse to pay truancy fines, the BBC understands

Mr Gove said: "Critically, we need to tackle the root causes of truancy and misbehaviour.

"Children only have one chance at education. We can't let them miss out on its transformative effect.

"We need to ensure every child is in school, benefitting from great teaching in every classroom, every school day.

'Embrace reform'

"That is why we've tightened the rules on attendance and absence figures are down.

"But there's more to do. We need to ensure that those parents who don't play their part in ensuring their children attend school, ready to learn and showing respect for their teacher, face up to their responsibilities."

Mr Gove said detailed proposals would be brought forward later this year.

He is also understood to want a commitment to end illiteracy and innumeracy included in the next Conservative manifesto.

This would "save lives which are currently wasted", he said.

He also spoke of schools that were "setting children up to fail" by setting low expectations, providing "dumbed-down courses" and refusing to think of them as "intellectually curious and capable of greatness".

He added: "I believe we have to embrace reform, lean in to the future, set standards higher than ever before."

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