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AMs to vote on fines for parents of repeated truants

Assembly Members are tonight voting on whether the parents of children who consistently miss school should be fined. The Education Minister says the £60 penalty for truancy will only be used in the worst cases. But the opposition parties say it won't work.

The government 's expected to win the vote tonight, despite calls to replace the fines with more positive measures to encourage parents to send their children to school.

Owain Phillips reports.

Fixed penalties for parents of truants will 'hit morale'

Fixed penalties for parents of persistent truants will "hit morale" according National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Wales.

Assembly Members will debate the detail of plans this afternoon, before voting this evening.

Under the plans, parents would be fined £60 if their children play truant, rising to £120 if the fine is not paid within 28 days.

But Owen Hathway, Policy Officer at NUT Wales, has warned against fixed penalties being introduced.

"We know that the best way to tackle truancy and long term absenteeism is to have a healthy relationship between the parent and the school," he said.

"Our concern is that if you start introducing truancy fines, there's going to be a breakdown in that relationship and it's going to be even harder to engage families in this issue.

"We often know as well that many parents are trying their very best to bring children to school and they're trying every initiative they can.

"If you start fining them it's going to hit the morale of those parents; it's going to hit their engagement with schools and it's going to cause perhaps even greater problems."

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Tories fear truancy fines will hit most vulnerable

The Conservatives have also criticised a Welsh Government decision to push ahead with plans to fine parents of persistent truants.

This is a lazy Labour government piling all its eggs into a basket of punishment – at the expense of support and liaison.

There is a real danger that these fines will hit the most vulnerable hardest and ignore the real reasons behind truancy.

I fear fines will stack up while behaviour remains largely unchanged.

Low school attendance can have a hugely detrimental impact upon a child and Labour Ministers should be working hard to tackle the problem at its root causes.

– Angela Burns AM, Shadow Education Minister

Truancy fines condemned as backwards step

Plaid Cymru has criticised Welsh Government plans to impose fines on parents whose children repeatedly play truant as a 'retrograde step.'

They have not worked when they were introduced in England. The Education Minister needs to state where any money raised will go.

A Plaid Cymru Government would consider approaches such as the use of home school liaison officers to tackle absenteeism, so policies support pupils and their families, rather than penalise them by fining them. There is a correlation between areas of high deprivation and high levels of absenteeism.

– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru Education spokesman

Go-ahead for plan to fine parents over truancy

The Welsh Government wants to introduce fixed penalty notices for persistent truancy from 1 September.

It has published responses to a consultation which ended in February.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews put forward last November his plan for fines of up to £60 for the parents of children who regularly miss school, rising to £120 if not paid within a month.

Read More: Education Minister calls for fines for parents of regular truants

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62 prosecutions for truancy in RCT since September

62 parents or guardians have been prosecuted in Rhondda Cynon Taf since September for allowing their children to miss school.

The council says that between the start of the academic year in September 2012 and April 2013, those parents and guardians had to pay more than £19,000 in fines, costs and surcharges, in its crackdown on truancy.

It says that a child who misses ten school days per year will have missed almost a whole year of education by the time they reach 16.

Pupils are expected to attend school for a total of 11 years, but the average pupil in Rhondda Cynon Taf only attends for ten.

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