TWO parents have been
convicted of allowing their children to skip school in the first case of its kind in the
A teenage boy’s dad and the mother of a 14-year-old girl both allowed the youngsters to miss classes and were taken to court by the city council.
The dad, who admitted repeatedly failing to send his son to school, had sentence deferred while his child’s attendance is monitored, while the mum, who denied the charges, was found guilty and fined £150.
None of the adults or children involved in the case can be identified for legal reasons.
Teaching leaders today said they hoped the prosections would send out a stark message to parents, while city council chiefs said they had been forced to take the parents to court as a “last resort”.
Edinburgh’s Justice of the Peace Court was told yesterday that the teenage boy, who is in third year at high school, had only made it into class on 159 out of 335 school days, and had a “difficult” relationship with his father.
But even though his dad knew that he wasn’t going to school, he failed to confront or reprimand him about his conduct.
Teachers contacted the city council’s education department, which then decided to launch a private prosecution against the man.
He pleaded guilty under section 35 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to failing to ensure that his son attended school.
Defence solicitor Steven Donald said the father had a part-time job. The boy’s mother worked full-time and the dad was in charge of ensuring that his son attended school.
Mr Donald added: “Unfortunately, his son did not particularly want to go to school.”
The court heard that that since last June, the boy’s school had reported a major improvement in his behaviour.
In the second case, the mum – a 49-year-old laundry worker – had given up trying to get her daughter to attend classes, and had stopped attending meetings with an education welfare officer, the court heard.
The girl only attended school on 157 days out of a possible 335.
Solicitor Sandra Walker, defending, said welfare officer Linda McGregor had suggesting taking the girl’s mobile phone away as “a sanction”, but an attempt to do so had been met with “shouting and screeching”. The girl was bigger than her mother, Ms Walker said.
Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents headteachers, said: “I’m pleased and this will hopefully send a message to other parents that it is up to them to ensure their child’s attendance.”
The city council opens an investigation into a pupil’s absence after attendance falls below the 85 per cent mark.
Education convener Paul Godzik said: “Prosecution is a last resort – before we consider it we will use all available recourses and statutory interventions to try and improve a pupil’s attendance.
“As has been proved, despite our best efforts, some parents fail to take adequate measures to improve their child’s attendance at school.
“These successful prosecutions send out a clear message that those who continuously refuse to work with our staff will answer for their child’s poor attendance in court. We will continue do everything possible to help children get the education they deserve.”