Parents jailed for education neglect

The number of parents brought before courts last year for failing to send their children to school was the second highest ever, while 10 parents received custodial sentences.

The figures, provided by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, also show that despite the high num-ber of actions issued in 2015, the number of convictions was the lowest annual tally since 2007.

However, Educational Welfare Services explained it was due to the large number of cases that were adjourned and still going through the court system.

Last year, 176 cases were taken, 26 more than in the previous year and the second highest annual tally.

By the end of 2015 however, 115 of those cases that had yet to be concluded, in addition to 38 cases initiated in 2014 and one which commenced in 2013.

Since 2006, there have been 395 convictions of parents for failing to ensure their children attend school, at both primary and post-primary level. A total of 67 custodial sentences have been handed down in the past five years, including 10 last year, while the Probation Act was applied in five cases and fines imposed in nine in 2015.

Before court action is pursued, school attendance notices are issued in cases where absenteeism has become a serious problem.

Last year, 473 school attendance notices for 295 children were issued, a decrease on the record number of 553 notices issued in 2014.

Educational Welfare Services regional manager Dan O’Shea said in most cases custodial sentences were appealed and very little time was actually spent in jail. Earlier this month a judge in Limerick handed down sentence of one and two weeks to five sets of parents in Rathkeale.

Separately, Tusla published its School Attendance Data from Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2013/14.

It found the percentage of overall student days lost through absence in a school year was 5.4% in primary schools and 7.5% in post-primary schools, a decrease of 0.5% and 0.2%.

“It is estimated that about 54,000 students on average miss school each day, consisting of approximately 28,900 primary and 24,900 post-primary students,” it said.

In primary schools, 10.4% of pupils were absent for 20 days or more over the school year — a decrease of 1.2%.

The figure for 20-day absences in post-primary schools was 15.4%, a slight decrease on the figure for the previous year. Both the primary and post-primary figures are the lowest in the five-year period from 2009-10 to 2013-14.

Non-attendance was substantially higher in special schools and higher in mainstream schools with special classes, and is more prevalent in cities and towns than in rural areas.

Absenteeism was higher in Deis schools with around 25.3% of students at secondary level absent for more than 20 days.

There were 23 expulsions at primary level and 146 at primary level, with 1,287 students suspended at primary level and 13,473 students suspended at secondary level.

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