Mother sentenced to 28 days in jail on third prosecution for daughter's truancy

Mother sentenced to 28 days in jail on third prosecution for daughter's truancy
File photo.

A mother has been jailed for 28 days after a court heard her daughter had missed 125 days of school out of the last 156 days she could have attended.

Bandon District Court heard it was the third time the woman had been prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency for the offence, and that she and her child live just a five-minute walk from the secondary school in Co. Cork.

Judge James McNulty also heard that meetings between the Education Welfare Officer and senior staff at the school meant a reduced timetable had been put in place, as well as two sets of free school books and free breakfast and lunch was available in an attempt to get the teenage girl to attend, but with little success.

Education Welfare Officer Marie O'Driscoll told the court that the girl's mother had been issued with a School Attendance Notice (SAN) on New Year's Eve in person and by registered post and that between October 26 last and April 1 this year the girl had missed 125 days - 80% of the days available to attend.

On April 7, five certificates were presented which explained 16 days of absences, but nothing was produced as to the other 109 days.

At the same time, a reduced timetable was put in place, but from the beginning of April until last week the girl had only attended school on eight occasions.

Ms O'Driscoll also said that in April the woman applied to home school her daughter, adding that while the woman had a right to do so, "as an EWO I would have an issue with that".

The school efforts to encourage attendance included two free sets of books including one for her at home, free breakfast and lunch, after-school studies and extra learning supports. She was also withdrawn from Irish, received one-to-one maths resource teaching, SNA supports and last month was withdrawn from German lessons.

The woman's solicitor, Pat Horan, said he had spoken to his client, who was not in court, and that she had said she was meeting resistance from her daughter in her efforts to get her to school.

The EWO said: "I am not sure how much she is trying and what the nighttime routine is to get her up in the morning."

Judge McNulty convicted the woman in her absence and heard that she is already appealing a previous seven-day jail sentence for a similar offence.

He said: "sadly and with great regret" he was sentencing her to 28 days in prison.

The most recent figures from the Child and Family Agency show that as of last February, Educational Welfare Services had 3,263 open cases on its books and 2,024 referrals on its waiting list - the highest level since last June.

Tusla only brings prosecutions against parents or guardians for school absenteeism after it has issued warnings, including the formal School Attendance Notices.

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