Portsmouth headteacher: ‘It’s time truancy was taken seriously’

Newbridge Junior School Picture: Maria Bujor

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A CRACKDOWN on parents who allow their children to play truant has been welcomed by a Portsmouth headteacher who says it is high time the issue was taken seriously.

Adam Dare, of King Richard School, says missing school for holidays or other non-emergencies is unacceptable.

But he admitted that docking the cost of truancy fines from child benefit – a move recommended by government advisor Charlie Taylor – could harm youngsters who most need education.

Mr Dare, whose school has seen attendance rise from 88 to 93 per cent in two years through a combined strategy of £50 fixed penalty notices and rewards, said: ‘We need to take education seriously. Parents get mixed messages – a lot of them believe they’re entitled to two weeks off in term-time for holidays.

‘We don’t sanction any holiday in school term-time. Good attendance equals good results.’

He added: ‘I welcome Charlie Taylor’s strong stance, but I’m not comfortable with the detail.

‘I’ve always thought the best thing to do is take away the flat screen TVs or Sky box – taking away child benefit could be taking away food from a child.

‘I’d prefer to see some joined-up thinking with social services and the NHS.’

Mr Taylor, who led a review by a team of experts into cutting truancy, also suggested increasing fines to £60.

However out of 127,000 penalty notices issued since their introduction in 2004, around half were unpaid or withdrawn.