So in the news today, the Welsh Government has announced that new regulations are coming to force in September which mean that parents of children who truant are to be fined up to £120, and if these regulations are ignored, they could even end up in court.
Why is this important? Attendance can often be the real cause of why children are prevented from meeting their full potential. I’m not of course saying that all children who miss school are truanting, but it is important to recognise that it does exist and it needs to be put a stop to.
This new framework will exist as an addition to the current code of conduct by each local authority, which will need consultation which will then take time and money to happen.
There are a couple of issues I see with this, and I’m going to highlight them.
One issue I see is the reason for this happening. It appears that the absence rate in Wales has been slowly decreasing since 2005/06, but it would appear that the Welsh Education Minister feels that it’s not enough. Last year the truancy rate for secondary schools averaged 1.4%, which on the face of it, is not that high in comparison to previous years.
Another issue I see is the possible label it brings. It is no secret that children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to play truant and achieve poorer educational outcomes. So it is possible to assume that those who are truanting are from poorer backgrounds, which is not necessarily true. In fact, I remember a child who you would probably describe as upper class who demonstrated the attitude of ‘Why am I in school? I don’t need to be because I can be educated at home!’
The final issue I can see here is why the Welsh Government are doing this now, when previous attempts to reduce the truancy rate are clearly having some effect? This looks like an attempt to try and speed things up, not taking into account that these children might not be at fault. It may not even be the parents fault. The big thing for me is that instead of fining these parents, who may be in enough financial difficulty as it is, we should be supporting those families. Punishing already tough lives is only going to make things worse.
I’m all for trying to get all children into education, but we need to make sure that happens, but fining isn’t the answer. Comment your suggestions!