Rrrrrip! There goes another one!


"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?

Betsan Powys, Political editor, Wales Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It is easier for Leighton Andrews to grab headlines than knuckle down and improved schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    My daughter's freind hasn't gone to school regularly for 3 years and not at all for 18 months! Her brothers were the same. She won't even accept home schooling. 3 children lost their chance of an education through perental neglect - zero prosecutions. There's no need to change the law, just use the present law effectively including jailing lax parents if that's what's needed to stop the rot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    @ #36

    If your argument had any validity at all then I hardly think they would have gone to the trouble and expense of sending an Avian flu leaflet to every household in the UK... but they did! and we got it a whole week later here in Wales because of translation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Hi Llyn (39). Example and from my personal experience as I have a 7 year old child within Conwy LEA in category B school (75%E/25%W). All teachers are Welsh speakers and this is common to most of Wales Good teachers are being left out and education standards plummeting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    seeing as we've now gone fully on a tangeant:
    the other issue with EM schools having nearly all Welsh speaking teachers is this.... Where is the variety in life experience to teach kids that there is more than one way to be in life. All these teachers will have gone to WM school and the Urdd together and then straight into teaching as ability to speak Welsh gives them a meal ticket.


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