School absenteeism - Education for everyone

AS parents know, the early days of a child’s education are important for their growing up and preparation for life.

In school, children learn literacy and numeracy skills, along with norms of social behaviour, which are the twin bedrocks of every citizen.

Given the significance of early school days, it is startling that Ireland’s law on truancy is way out of kilter with patterns of school attendance. As today’s report shows, a staggering 98% of children are outside the law on school absenteeism for at least the first term of junior infants.

Only about 1,000 of the 67,000 children starting at primary level this week are within the scope of the education laws requiring that a child should be in school from the age of six to their mid-teens.

But with the vast majority of junior infants now under six, and many only four years old, the National Educational Welfare Board is powerless to take action or intervene formally if they consistently miss school. As the law states, the board must be notified if children from six to 16 years of age miss 20 days or more in a school year.

Politicians should heed the warning of the president of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Noreen Flynn, who represents 35,000 primary teachers.

She is absolutely right to voice her concerns over this discrepancy. From the day they enrol at school, every child should be covered by the law. Clearly, the truancy act is out of date and in urgent need of reform.


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