Mother prosecuted for children’s poor school attendance

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

A MOTHER in the Capital has been prosecuted for failing to ensure her teenage children were attending school.

Her daughters, aged 15 and 13, had attendance rates of 39 per cent and 62 per cent respectively, Edinburgh Justice of the Peace Court heard yesterday.

The children, who along with their mother cannot be named for legal reasons, are enrolled at a secondary in the north of the city.

Justice Judith Tolley was told the 37-year-old mother failed to engage with education welfare staff amid concern about the youngsters’ poor attendance record.

She decided to refer the girls to the Children’s Reporter, who will determine whether further intervention is necessary.

The mother pleaded guilty by letter to charges in respect of section 35 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. She did not attend yesterday’s hearing.

Council solicitor Matthew Clarke told the court: “The council has dedicated education officers who try to ensure young people attend school.

“In the current case, the accused has failed to engage in that process. She has failed to respond to numerous requests by the education welfare officer – the requests being made by letter and telephone call – to decide how best to improve the attendance of the two young people.

“It is that lack of co-operation that has led to a prosecution.

“Attendance records such as these are likely to lead to the education of the young people suffering dramatically.”

He said there was no issue beyond poor attendance giving the council cause for concern.

Prosecution of parents for failing to ensure children go to school is rare in Edinburgh.

In January 2013, a mother was fined £150 after her 14-year-old daughter’s attendance rate fell below 50 per cent. Another pupil’s father pleaded guilty to the same charge.

It was the first time in about 20 years that the council had brought court action against parents over truancy.

However, Glasgow Council has regularly used powers under the act.

Councillor Paul Godzik, Edinburgh’s education leader, said: “Taking a parent to court is an absolute last resort and before we consider this action schools will use all the available options open, and provide every available support to try to ensure the child goes to school and receives the education they deserve.

“If, however parents do not take adequate measures to improve their child’s attendance, then they will need to answer for this in court. Every child has the right to a proper education, and it is every parents’ duty to ensure they receive one.”