OF IRELAND’S 800,000 children in primary and post-primary education, over 111,000 miss more than 20 days in school each year, the Joint Committee on Health and Children has heard.
Nuala Doherty, chairperson designate of the National Educational Welfare Board which monitors pupil absenteeism, told the committee yesterday that the rate of pupil absence in the 2009-2010 school year “was lower that the average rate for the previous five years”.
Schools must notify the NEWB, founded under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 if a pupil has been absent for more than 20 days in a year. However, she noted that a sick child could easily miss that length of time, but that this would be treated as a legitimate absence from school.
“Teachers signal to us when they are concerned about attendance,” she said.
Parents can face prosecution over their child’s absence from school, and since summonses were first issued in 2006, there have been 200 convictions. Another 139 cases have been struck out “mainly because of general improvements”, Doherty told the committee.
Under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, a parent can mount a legitimate defence that they have done their best to return a child to school.
Doherty also said that there were ten expulsions from primary schools and 148 from post-primary schools in the 2009-2010 school year.
“Expulsion continues to be a rare occurrence,” she said. “It affects just 0.05 per cent of students in our secondary schools. It is important for the committee to note that our figures are very similar to those in Northern Ireland and the UK.”