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Letters Extra: We are not police officers

Heads, teachers and support staff do indeed "deserve respect" and they will welcome the high priority being given by the Government to tackling truancy, and many of the measures outlined by Mr Clarke (TES, 13 December 2002).

However, I share the concerns of many about allowing head teachers to fine parents.

As a former head teacher myself, I believe that giving heads quasi-judicial powers could undermine their relationship with parents. How would such fines be enforced? What would happen if parents wouldn't or couldn't pay?

Head teachers might be accused of treating some parents more harshly than others. A positive relationship between schools and parents is paramount to pupils' success.

Schools, parents and the wider community need to work in partnership to ensure that pupils attend school. The Government too must look at and tackle the underlying causes of truancy.

Punishing parents should be left to the courts, as they have the appropriate resources and authority.

Jean Gemmell
General Secretary
Professional Association of Teachers (PAT)
St James' Court
Friar Gate

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