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COUNCIL DISAPPOINTMENT AT DISCHARGE OF TRUANT'S PARENT

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Lewisham LBC has expressed disappointment at today's judgement in a truancy case. ...
Lewisham LBC has expressed disappointment at today's judgement in a truancy case.

Simone Westlake was prosecuted by Lewisham for failing to ensure her child attended school regularly. She was charged under Section 199 of the Education Act 1993.

Her son, Alan Westlake (13), failed to attend school for over half of the 196 spring term.

She first appeared at Greenwich magistrates court on April 18. She pleaded guilty as charged. The magistrate deferred sentence until May and imposed bail conditions that she escort her son to school every day. This is the first order of its kind made in this country.

At the second hearing on May 23, the court deferred sentence so that the escort order could be extended to the end of the school year.

At this morning's hearing at Greenwich magistrates, Simone Westlake was given a six month conditional discharge. The Education Act allows for a fine of up to £1,000.

Lewisham prosecutes 40-50 parents a year for failing to ensure their child attends school regularly.

Education committee chair Gavin Moore said: 'The courts may let parents walk away from their responsibilities. That's not something we're prepared to do.

'A conditional discharge seems to have let Ms Westlake off the hook and that's not the kind of message we need to be sending to parents.

'The publicity surrounding the Westlake case has had a very positive effect on truancy in Lewisham. Parents have really taken notice of the case and many long-term truants have returned to their schools for the first time in months. Today's sentence is not going to help us in our work.

'Parents must realise that they have a responsibility to make sure their children attend school regularly. Every day a child truants, it becomes harder for that child to pass the exams they're going to need in an increasingly competitive job market.'

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