It seems to be a reoccurring theme that the Welsh Government doesn’t have real solutions to the problems within our education system. The most recent of these action plans on education is fixed penalties for parents whose children continually truant.
Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews held a consultation period from November 2012 to February 2013. During that consultation there was a total of just 53 responses, including only 12 of the 22 Welsh local authorities, only 16 schools and 12 parents/carers. Of those 53, only just over half – 55% – agreed with the penalty notice option.
In any other consultation, particularly where the responsibility of managing such a system comes down to local authorities, 12 of the 22 Welsh local authorities is hardly a mandate to pile on the pressure, in addition to what LAs are currently facing with budget cuts and service reform.
Issuing fixed penalties to parents first assumes that the parents are aware of their child truanting – which in the majority of scenarios, isn’t the case. This policy does nothing to tackle the root cause of truancy, it is yet another quick fix, another blame passing policy by the Welsh Government to avoid facing reality.
Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrats North Wales AM said, “Whilst parents must take responsibility for their children’s behaviour and fulfill their obligation to ensure they attend school, a community-wide approach involving parents, police and local welfare officers would be much more effective than theses punitive measures being implemented by the Education Minister.”
We must engage with the children, not the local authorities. Persisent truancy suggests an underlying cause factor in the child not wanting to attend school. The answers are therefore with our children, not our bureaucratic system.
Additionally, evidence shows that children who are more likely to truant are from low socio-economic backgrounds – therefore families face additional economic hardship which will further impact on living standards and attainment. For younger children this could result in developmental complications, attainment and behavioural problems as a result of poor standards of living.
In the majority of cases this will do nothing to address the number of hours a child spends in the classroom. This is a truly unimaginative and counterproductive approach to tackling truancy