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Parents facing jail over girl's truancy; Daughter missed 66% of lessons in school year.

Byline: Ben Guy

ACOUPLE have received a suspended jail sentence for allowing their daughter to play truant for more than two-thirds of a school year.

Parents Deborah and Colin Orr, of Queen Street, Ashington, were prosecuted by Northumberland County Council under the Education Act 1996 for failing to ensure the regular school attendance of a child.

Bedlington Magistrates' Court heard how the couple's daughter, who attends a local middle school, had an attendance record of just 34% for the school year so far.

That included a period between September and November when she was in school on only a quarter of the days that she was supposed to be.

Both Mrs Orr, 38, and her 42-year-old husband were sentenced to an 11-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months.

The couple, who were also hit with a three-month curfew of 7am to 7pm, have agreed to work with the council's education welfare service and other support agencies. They were told by the court that any breach of their curfew or failing to send their child to school in the future could see them ending up in jail.

Senior education welfare officer Angela Cunningham said the sentence sent a clear message to parents.

She said: "This is not something we like to do, but hopefully it does send out the message.

"Prosecutions are the last resort, but we hope it will make parents understand that they have a responsibility to ensure their child gets the most out of school by attending regularly.

"Our aim is always to work with the family and it is only in cases where we haven't had an effect where we would go to court."

The court also heard that the couple had been prosecuted previously for similar offences.

A council spokesman added that there were a number of other steps the authority had taken before prosecuting.

She said: "Prosecutions are the final sanction employed against parents who don't make sure their children attend school regularly.

"When parents are identified as failing in their responsibility over school attendance, a variety of other measures are employed.

"These include home visits, invitations for parents to attend school to talk to staff, and parenting contracts which ask parents to commit to ensuring good attendance from their child. Penalty notices may also be employed before prosecution is considered."

In the year to April, the council prosecuted 36 people for truancy offences, all of which were successful, and in the last month there have been a further nine successful prosecutions.

We hope it will make parents understand that they have a responsibility to ensure their child gets the most out of school
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 22, 2008
Words:439
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