Rrrrrip! There goes another one!
- 27 June 2012
- From the section Wales politics
"This" said my mother "is where the whipper-in used to live".
This was Saturday and a family walk in the footsteps of my mother and her brother and sisters, from the farm where they lived, along the 'cwm' to school in Llanddeiniol. My children looked blank. There was no cottage, just a few stones amongst the long grass and anyway, what on earth was this "whipper-in" mamgu was talking about?
The man's little black book noted why the local children weren't at school. Most were needed to help on the farm, had no shoes, couldn't be spared at busy times of year. If you listened to Simon Warr, a teacher at an independent school in Suffolk on Radio Wales this morning, then you'd add "parents took pot and couldn't be bothered to get up" to the list in 2012. I'm sure he'd accept that in between, there are any number of reasons why parents, or their children, "don't see the value of school" as he put it.
In future, just as in England, those parents will be fined. Leighton Andrews, the whipper-in-in-chief of 2012 - is tackling persistent truancy and is doing it by bringing in fines.
Tony Blair's government took the same route in England back in 2004. Back then the Welsh Education Minister was Jane Davidson and fining parents of truants was the wrong way to go: "it does not fit in with the Assembly Government's inclusion policies in Wales" as she put it at the time, "prosecution should be used very much as a last resort".
The logic of her position was that the fines could end up falling hardest on some of the parents least able to pay, which would be regressive and contrary to her government's aims.
Fast forward to 2012 and what's changed? Nothing - except that truancy rates in Wales remain stubbornly higher than England and the latest incumbent in Ms Davidson's job is adopting a "zero tolerance" approach to the issue of absenteeism. Although Leighton Andrews has been highly critical of the impact of the UK Government's welfare cutbacks on the poorest in Welsh society, it seems he has the stomach to implement a policy that his predecessors baulked at.
He's already torn up quite a list of policies put in place by successive Labour education ministers. Listen! Rip! There goes another one.
What's he planning to tear up next?