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Parents face jail or fines in new crackdown on truancy

Three Edinburgh parents are facing jail or a fine under a new truancy crackdown in the city.

Edinburgh City Council announced this week it had started criminal proceedings in the Justice of the Peace Court against three parents who, it is alleged, have failed to ensure their child attends school regularly. In one case the child attended school for less than half the academic year.

This is a first for the council, which says it is taking these steps to help improve pupil participation and performance.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council, however, argues that punishing parents is not in the best interests of the family or child.

A spokeswoman said: "Appropriate support systems should be in place to help those concerned to get back on track. Fines and other punitive measures do not necessarily help towards this."

Prosecution was a last resort, stressed Moyra Wilson, a senior education manager at Edinburgh City Council.

A formal process was triggered once a child's attendance dropped below 85 per cent and the case was referred to an education welfare officer who worked with the family to improve attendance. If the absences continued, the parent was asked to appear before the Area Attendance Advisory Group; the next move was a summons before the Attendance Order Review Group.

Ms Wilson said: "Attendance orders were proving successful in some cases but not in others. Prosecution is the last step and is not something we do lightly."

emma.seith@tess.co.uk

PAYING THE PENALTY

Glasgow City Council has raised actions against more than 200 parents in the past couple of years. The council had to be seen to take action when a parent was not doing all they could to ensure their child got to school, said a spokeswoman.

Since 2007, North Lanarkshire Council has taken 74 parents to court but only three parents have been convicted.

Penalties include a fine of up to pound;1,000 or imprisonment for up to one month.

No Scottish parent has ever been jailed but in England, in 2010, 11,757 parents were prosecuted and 25 given prison sentences. The longest sentence was 90 days.

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