Professor Ken Reid led a report into attendance and behaviour for the Welsh Government in 2008. The report was warmly welcomed by Ministers, but so far it has failed to implement his recommendations.
Despite clear recommendations from Professor Reid arguing against truancy fines, the Welsh Labour Government has recently announced its intention to fine parents £120 if their children play truant.
There has been nowhere near enough progress by the Welsh Labour Government with regards to truancy rates. Professor Reid presented to the Welsh Government an excellent report that, I believe, the Welsh Government should be taking more seriously.
The only action I can see the Welsh Labour Government actually taking on this issue is trying to fine parents –something Professor Reid said the Government should categorically rule out.
Fining the parents of truant children is not the panacea the Welsh Labour Government is looking for. The Education Minister should learn from the experiences of his Labour colleagues while they were in government in England – despite introducing on the spot fines, truancy continued to rise.
Evidence shows that children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to play truant and achieve poorer educational outcomes. I am concerned that fining parents of truant pupils will cause them even more economic hardship and will do nothing to address the problems of their child missing vital school hours.
Parents must take responsibility for their children’s behaviour and they have an obligation to ensure they attend school. A community-wide approach involving parents, police and local welfare officers would be much more effective than the measures being considered the Education Minister.
We are currently looking into Attendance and Behavioural policy in Children and Young People Committee which I hope will reinforce the argument that fines are not the way to go.