Parents respond to mother's jail sentence

Biddy Passmore reports on the continuing controversy over the best methods of curbing truancy and bad behaviour

Parents all over the country were reported this week to be returning their long-absent children to school, after the jailing of Banbury parent Patricia Amos for her daughters' persistent truancy.

Ministers, headteachers and Mrs Amos herself all agreed that the rough justice had worked.

Interviewed at the start of the week, the newly-released Mrs Amos said the sentence had taught her a valuable lesson.

"Everybody deserves their education and I was denying my children their rights through my own stupidity and ignorance," she said. "I'm not saying it should be done to everybody but I do think it works. It has brought me to my senses."

Education Secretary Estelle Morris, said she would support the jailing of other parents as a last resort.

"I think that it set an example to others," she said. In Norfolk, two pupils who had played truant more than 200 times were "shell-shocked" into going back to school after learning their mother could be sent to jail, a court heard this week.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added that Mrs Amos's jailing had an "immediate impact" on other parents.

But, while he welcomed ministers' support for tougher punishments, Mr Hart voiced harsh criticism of the Government for sending "mixed messages" to schools about social inclusion.

Writing today in The TES he says: "Delays in translating policy into action are followed by a frenzied series of initiatives that appear to be unconnected."

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