Parents of frequently absent schoolchildren get court ultimatum

Parents of children who are missing substantial amounts of school were warned by a judge to improve or face court again.

A previous court was told how the children — aged between nine and 14 — were from a large family and the parents, who live within 10 minutes’ walk from a school, had come up with “a series of excuses” for not sending their children to school.

Last May, that court was told that one of the children had not spent a single full day at secondary school, while three younger children had missed 105 days, 100 days and 81 days at primary level, and rates of absenteeism without genuine excuse ranged from 37% to 32% in a given period earlier this year.

The case was adjourned to yesterday where a solicitor for the Child and Family Agency said that while attendance had improved slightly in the new school year, absence was still at the rate of 30% for all four children. The eldest child was at secondary school.

“The young children are frequently late for school by as much as 20 minutes and they disturb the whole class,” the solicitor said.

All the children had missed a whole week at the start of the school year because of being on holiday with the family.

Solicitor Pádraig O’Connell said there were a number of children in the family, including younger non-school going siblings.

“It’s a matter of focus,” Mr O’Connell said.

However, Judge James O’Connor said: “A 30% rate of absenteeism means all focus is gone.” He said he would only tolerate a maximum 10% absenteeism rate from now on, and advised the legal teams that he would allow the case to be re-entered within seven days notice should the school attendance not improve dramatically.

The previous court was told that the parents had only reacted meaningfully when the Child and Family Agency had summonsed the family to court in March.

School Attendance Notices, the first step in legal action over school attendance, were issued to the parents in late September 2013.


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