Sunderland parents face £50 on-the-spot fines for truant kids

A group of school girls playing truant (PICTURE POSED BY MODELS).

A group of school girls playing truant (PICTURE POSED BY MODELS).

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PARENTS could soon face on-the-spot fines if their wayward children skip school.

In a bid to curb a “lack of engagement” from some Sunderland mams and dads, tough new proposals aim to deal with truancy problems swiftly.

Previously, any child in the city was allowed up to 20 per cent off each term due to illness or events such as religious festivals.

But the Government has now cut it to 15 per cent, meaning many more children are at risk of exceeding the limit.

Sunderland City Council says this is one of the reasons why it is considering the new penalty system, to force parents into taking responsibility for where their child is.

Fines would initially start at £50, however, if they are not paid within a certain time period, the cost would rocket to £100.

If payment was still not received, court action would follow.

The new scheme could start next year.

Mike Foster, deputy director of children’s services, said: “The aim is not to punish parents but to get children into school.

“And rather than take the parents through the court system, we will issue the fine to act as an incentive.

“We will look at each case individually and in some cases we may decide that giving a fine to some parents would have no effect on them.

“But most importantly we need consistency across all schools and it’s clear that getting children into schools helps improve their life chances.”

The council said research showed a link between low attendance at school and the risk of involvement in crime, and that regular attendance improves life skills and achievement.

The Echo asked Wearside parents for their views about the fines.

“It is important to get kids into school,” said Sam Parks, 38, a mother-of-two from Grangetown. “But I don’t know if making parents pay will help.

“Some parents try their best, but if their children just don’t want to go then there is not much they can do.

“I’ve never had trouble with my kids so hopefully it won’t affect me.”

Peter Moore, 59, a mechanic from Seaham, said: “If it stops the kids causing trouble then I think it’s a good thing.

“Parents need to take responsibility about what their children are doing – when I was young I would not have dared not go to school.

“It’s important to get more discipline into the schools as kids seem to think they can do what they want.”

Hendon mother-of-three Jenny Sweet, 33, said: “In tough times, it seems a bit harsh to be bringing in something else that people will have to fork out for.

“I know it’s important to get kids into school, but £50 is a lot of money.

“I think it should only happen if it is a last resort.

“Some people will just not be bothered by it, but I think it will work with some other families.”

The final decision is still to be made on whether the proposals will be adopted.

Councillor Pat Smith, portfolio holder for children and learning city, said: “The proposal to use penalty notices is designed to be another tool in the box of strategies that we can use to tackle non-attendance.

“It is an added option for dealing with unauthorised absence, aimed at preventing children’s absences from becoming entrenched.”

Twitter: @tomwhite7