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Truancy hotspots a target in city blitz

TRUANCY rates in a handful of Chester area schools are being targeted after it was revealed they are 10 times higher than the rest of Cheshire.

TRUANCY rates in a handful of Chester area schools are being targeted after it was revealed they are 10 times higher than the rest of Cheshire.

County council education chiefs and city magistrates stress these figures, which relate only to a small number of schools, are a major 'cause for concern'.

As a result, 22 parents in West Cheshire (Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston) have been taken to court in the last six months to drive the message home to them and their children.

The schools involved have not been named.

Council spokesman Ian Callister said: 'While Cheshire's daily truancy rates are below the national averages at 0.4%, the West Cheshire area has some schools which record unauthorised absence figures of about 4%.

'We are highlighting this becase it is giving us cause for concern. But it is only a handful of schools, not all of them!'

Paula Waters is just one of those 22 parents taken to court for failing to stop their child's repeated truancy from school.

They were all fined £100-£400, plus costs, by Chester, Ellesmere Port & Neston magistrates who regard truanting to be a serious offence.

Appearing in court on Tuesday last week, Waters admitted a charge of failing to secure her child's regular attendance at school.

The court heard her 14-year-old daughter has only attended school 38 times out of a possible 166 between March 5 and July 20 this year.

Waters, of Sycamore Drive, Lache, Chester, whom the court heard was a former heroin and crack cocaine addict, was put on probation for two years.

Speaking after the case, county council education committee chairman David Rowlands said: 'Prosecution of parents is a last resort, used only when we are convinced that every alternative avenue has been explored.

'Even then, such action is chiefly to ensure that children get the education which is their right, rather than just to punish parents.

'Regular schooling is vital for any child to have the chance to achieve his or her full potential. Few youngsters ever manage to compensate in later life for substantial loss of their education.'

He said that is why the council wants every single child in the county to attend school.

'Parents prepared to condone truancy should be aware that we will use the law to remedy the situation,' added Cllr Rowlands.

The maximum sentence the courts can hand down is £2,500 and at least three months in prison, plus a parenting order which can require the defendant to take a course in good parenting.

One such order has already been issued in Cheshire and assessments are ongoing in four other cases.

* WEST Cheshire's education welfare service staff are concerned at the number of cases of unauthorised absence among children whose parents have drug, alcohol or mental health problems.

And officers are finding in other cases that apathy to education has been passed down from their parents, who never knew a regular job.

Senior education welfare officer Cynthia Roe said: 'In cases where there is a dependency, their children's needs frequently become secondary.'


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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