Curfew for drop-off kids

16th September 2005 at 01:00
Parents in East Renfrewshire have been asked not to drop their children off at school too early, as part a wider effort to make absence monitoring more robust in the wake of the murder of Livingston pupil Rory Blackhall.

A spokesman for the authority said that in one "celebrated" case, a parent had dropped a child off at school at 7.50am and then complained because the janitor would not take the child into his house. "The youngster was getting soaked and was vulnerable in the playground on his own," he said. "The janitor did the right thing but was put in a very difficult position."

While many children arrived at school by bus, cases were reported by headteachers of pupils being dropped 40 minutes before the start of the school day.

"We are talking about some very small children," he said. "We do have breakfast clubs in some schools starting at 8.15am and some pre-school care facilities which may start at 8am, and that is fine because there is a presence in the school and the youngster has got somewhere to go.

"But we also find that some parents are dropping children off before that.

Certainly, people are commuting into Glasgow and dropping their kids off on their way to work, but parents also have a part to play in ensuring children's safety."

John Wilson, director of education, has reminded parents that they should let schools know in advance if their son or daughter will be absent. They should also try to indicate when they are expected to return.

"We have extremely robust absence monitoring systems in place, including notifying parents of primary school pupils on day one if their daughter or son fails to come to school," Mr Wilson said. "Now I am reminding parents and carers of the importance of continuing to play their part in keeping our pupils safe and accounted for."

He acknowledged that East Renfrewshire has the best school attendance rates in Scotland, but said that the authority would implement any further guidance from the Scottish Executive in the wake of the Livingston case.

Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said that she had sympathy with Mr Wilson's viewpoint but also with the children who were "dropped off at some unreasonably early hours".

"That is something society has to face up to," Mrs Gillespie said. "It can't be solved by schools or exhorting parents not to do it. It is being driven by a workaholic society where everyone has to go out to work and earn considerable sums of money."

She called on authorities to hold discussions on what could be done to provide supervision rather than issuing an exhortation not to drop children off unreasonably early.

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