Truant children: Up to £120 fine for parents in Wales
- 20 May 2013
- From the section Wales
Parents of children who are regular school truants are to be fined up to £120, says the Welsh government.
The new measures to tackle school absence rates come into force in September.
Parents who fail to stop their child missing lessons will be issued a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will double if they fail to pay within 28 days.
Those who ignore the new regulations could end up in court.
Education Minister Leighton Andrews said there was a "general agreement" with his proposals following a public consultation.
Ministers previously resisted bringing in fixed penalties despite them being used in some parts of England since 2004.
But Mr Andrews has put tackling truancy high on a list of actions to improve educational attainment and announced last year his plan to start fining parents of persistent truants.
"The penalty notice system is an additional option that can be used as part of local authority intervention strategies for less entrenched attendance issues," he said.
According to official figures, the average truancy rate for secondary schools in Wales in 2011/12 was 1.4%. Nine local education authorities (LEA) had higher rates, with the worst being Cardiff at 2.7%.
Although overall absence rates have been slowly decreasing each year since 2005/06, ministers say more needs to be done.
A Welsh government spokesman said although the regulations were coming into force in September, ministers did not expect the first wave of fines to be rolled out for a number of months.
"Local authorities will have to draw up their own code of conduct as well as put them out to consultation first," he added.
"This could take some time and will vary between each local authority."
But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Wales said it was disappointed the Welsh government had chosen to introduce fines for persistent truancy, adding that it could undermine some of the good work that was already happening.
NUT Cymru policy officer Owen Hatchway said: "We know that persistent truancy is a problem for schools.
"However, this is an issue where substantial progress is being made. The latest figures show record levels of attendance in the primary sector and significant improvements in attendance in secondary schools.
"Whilst no one should rest on their laurels, the union is concerned that the introduction of truancy fines could have a counterproductive impact and undermine the good work being undertaken."
Conservative education spokesperson Angela Burns AM said she feared fines would stack up while behaviour remained largely unchanged.
"This is a lazy Labour government piling all its eggs into a basket of punishment at the expense of support and liaison," she said.
"There is a real danger that these fines will hit the most vulnerable hardest and ignore the real reasons behind truancy."
Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokesman Aled Roberts described the Welsh government's decision as counter-productive.
"Evidence shows that children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to play truant and achieve poorer educational outcomes.
"I am concerned that fining parents of truant pupils will cause them even more economic hardship and will do nothing to address the problems of their child missing vital school hours."
Simon Thomas for Plaid Cymru said he backed policies to support pupils and families to tackle truancy, rather than introduce fines.
"Introducing fixed penalty notices are a retrograde step," he added.
"They have not worked when they were introduced in England. The education minister needs to state where any money raised will go."