take action to improve their child's school attendance according to
figures revealed today by Ivan Lewis, minister for skills and
Initial feedback from 21 local education authorities operating the
new 'Fast Track to Prosecution' process shows that in its first six
months of operation almost 1,500 parents of persistent truants were
given the chance to improve their child's school attendance or face
legal action. In the event, only 50% of cases needed to reach the
courts as the parents, faced with the prospect of prosecution,
finally engaged with LEA educational welfare services to get their
children back into school.
The figures were revealed as the Department for Education and Skills
today joined forces with the Department for Constitutional Affairs
and the Magistrates' Association to publish new detailed guidance on
tackling truancy and ensuring regular school attendance.
The guidance will help local education authority education welfare
officers and magistrates, understand the wide range of support
strategies and legal measures that can be used to encourage parents
to take their responsibilities seriously and get their children back
into school, and in cases where it is appropriate, prosecute truancy
cases more efficiently and effectively.
Ivan Lewis said:
'Every day in school counts. Only 8% of persistent truants achieve 5
A*-C GCSEs and around a third achieve no passes whatsoever. This is a
complete waste of potential, and a passport to unemployment,
anti-social behaviour and criminality.
'While the vast majority of parents are willing and able to make sure
their children attend school regularly, it is a sad fact that a
minority do not. For those parents who deliberately condone or
encourage their child's truancy, the message is clear - prosecution
'Every support and assistance will b e offered to parents to help them
get their children into school, but we make no apologies for
encouraging local education authorities to prosecute parents who are
not unable, but simply unwilling to fulfil their legal and moral
'And the new guidance will support our continuing drive to tackle
truancy and improve school attendance, promoting effective support
where it is needed, or efficient prosecution where it is rejected.'
Research, involving a detailed survey of education welfare service
managers, to be published shortly by the Local Government Association
shows that 5,381 parents were summonsed to court across 93 local
education authorities last year - equivalent to 57-58 prosecutions
per authority with the majority of those interviewed agreeing that
prosecution was the right course of action.
In 80% of cases the prosecution resulted in the parent being found
guilty; 14% of cases were withdrawn; and a not-guilty verdict
returned in less than 1% of cases.
Christopher Leslie, Department for Constitutional Affairs minister,
'This joint guidance will increase understanding of the truancy
prosecution process. It will enable the courts to have a wider
understanding of all the work of the local education authorities
before bringing a case to court as well as the LEAs having a clearer
understanding of the courts process, procedure and powers.'
Welcoming the new guidance, Rachel Lipscomb chairman of the
Magistrates' Association said:
'This will ensure that everyone involved in these cases will be
better informed and prepared, and help the courts to deal with these
cases much more effectively and efficiently, so ultimately reducing
the truanting behaviour which can lead to criminal or anti-social
Bob Carstairs, assistant general secretary of the Secondary Heads
'Truancy seriously affects children's life chances. This guidance
will sup port schools in understanding their role in monitoring and
improving school attendance and will be a useful tool in promoting
closer and more effective working between schools and local education
This Notice applies to England.
1. The 'Fast Track to Prosecution' framework was introduced in
January 2003, and is currently being implemented by 30 pathfinder
local education authorities. Under the framework, pupils who have
problems surrounding attendance are identified early and given
structured support by schools and Education Welfare Services to
tackle their truancy and its causes.
2. If difficulties persist and the parent(s) fails to cooperate with
the school/LEA in bringing about an improvement in their child's
attendance, the case enters the 'Fast Track to Prosecution' where the
parent(s) are given 12 weeks (one term) to co-operate, facing
prosecution if they fail to do so. The framework does not 'fast
track' the courtroom process itself, rather it is about pushing
parents who deliberately condone or encourage truancy to take their
3. Initial feedback from 21 local education authorities operating the
new 'Fast Track to Prosecution' shows that in its first six months of
operation 1490 parents of persistent truants faced the prospect of
legal action unless they improved their child's school attendance. In
the event, only 739 cases reached the courts as 751 parents, faced
with the possibility of prosecution, finally engaged with Educational
Welfare Services to get their children back into school.
4. The LEAs are Birmingham City Council, Blackpool BC, Brent LBC,
Buckinghamshire CC, Camden LBC, Derby City Council, Doncaster MBC,
Hillingdon LBC, Kingston upon Hull City Council, Kent CC, Knowsley MBC,
Liverpool City Council, Manchester City Council, Newcastle City Council,
Newham LBC, North East Lincolnshire Council, Salford City Council,
Stoke on Trent City Council, Thurrock BC, Tower Hamlets LBC and
5. 'Ensuring Regular Attendance at School - Guidance on the Legal
Measures Available to Secure Regular School Attendance' was developed
by the Department for Education and Skills in partnership with the
Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Home Office, the
Magistrates' Association, the Secondary Heads Association, the
Confederation of Education Service Managers, the National Children's
Bureau, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Justices'
Clerks' Society, the Judicial Studies Board, the Youth Justice Board,
the Local Government Association, the National Association of Social
Workers in Education, and the Association of Education Welfare
6. The guidance is published hereand explains:
- the roles and responsibilities of parents, schools and the local
education authority in ensuring children's regular school
- the law relating to school attendance, where a parent is
responsible for making sure that their child of compulsory school
age receives full-time education, either in school or at home;
- the range of support and intervention strategies available to
encourage school attendance, including dedicated mentoring, parent
support sessions, school reports, in-school counselling, or
referral to Education Welfare Services for intensive casework
support for parent and child;
- the procedure for bringing a prosecution against a parent who has
failed to ensure their child's regular school attendance, including
the new 'Fast Track to Prosecution;'
- and the process of court hearings and sentencing options available
to Magistrates, ranging from punitive fines and community
sentences, to parenting orders which offer intensive guidance and
counselling to parents in dealing with their child, to custodial
sentences of up to three months.
7. The rate of recorded unauthorised absences in primary and
secondary schools has remained unchanged at 0.72% of half days lost
since records began in 1994, translating into 7.5 million days missed
annually. The government is committed to reducing school truancies by
10 per cent by May 2004.