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Court

39 convictions for parents so far over children missing school last year

In total last year, there were 175 court summons given to parents over 101 children.

NEW FIGURES SHOW that there were 175 court summons handed to parents whose children were missing too much school last year.

The number of summons has been on the rise since the National Education Welfare Board (now TUSLA) began handing them out in 2006 – last year there were 133 summons, and the number reached a high of 190 in 2011.

Convictions

So far, there have been 39 convictions for parents given the summons – but with 71 cases adjourned and 15 adjourned with leave to re-enter, that number may rise.

Four cases saw parents given the probation act, while 33 were struck out.

Dan O’Shea, regional manager with TUSLA, told TheJournal.ie that  they are hopeful that the end of a court process is not a conviction, and instead is that the child returns to education.

If the cases are struck out, generally that is because TUSLA is happy that the child has returned to school.

The 175 summonses were issued in relation to 101 of the 890,000 children in schools in Ireland.

“That is a very small percentage,” said O’Shea. The summonses are given “at the critical end of things”, said O’Shea, when they “deem that parents are unfairly neglecting their children”.

Interventions

The summonses come when TUSLA has tried all other interventions and agencies, at the “end of a fairly protracted process”, he said.

  • Schools have to report children to TUSLA when they miss 20 days or more of school.
  • Work is done to differentiate between the children who have missed school due to factors such as illness and those who may be missing it due to neglect.
  • Then a process is put in place to try and get that child back into the classroom, while working with the school, child, parents and appropriate agencies.

“The focus of late has been to hear the voice of the child,” explained O’Shea. “That would be very dependent on the voice of the individual.”

If TUSLA feels that the parents “could be doing more to ensure their children could attend more regular school”, the first step is that there is a school attendance notice issued.

There were 493 school attendance notices issued in relation to 287 children last year.

These notices put parents on a warning, telling them that if they don’t cause the attendance of their child to improve, they may face proceedings.

The lower numbers in previous years could be because the agency was “finding our feet” and finding its way through the court processes, said O’Shea.

Since then, they “have developed a clear pathway”, said O’Shea. He added that the decision-making process is a collaborative one.

Read: Kids of unemployed and depressed parents more likely to be absent from class>

Read: 111,000 pupils miss more than 20 school days a year>

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