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Truancy £120 fines will target poorest in Welsh society

27/06/2022

Plaid Cymru has responded to plans to fine parents if their children are regular truants. The party’s education spokesperson, Simon Thomas AM questioned how this policy would help the poorest children in Welsh society reach the best educational standards. Mr Thomas expressed concern that the introduction of fines would hit the poorest families hardest.

Parents could be fined if their children are regular truants under proposals by the Welsh government. Regulations on penalties of up to £120 for the parents of persistent truants have been drawn up by civil servants working for the Labour Education Minister.

Plaid’s Education spokesperson Simon Thomas said: "The Welsh Government claims to be ‘prioritising the needs of the poorest and protecting those most at risk of poverty and exclusion’ (Tackling poverty action plan 2012-16) How does targeting the most vulnerable in society fit in with this? The Welsh Government has previously said that fixed penalties for parents did not fit its ‘inclusion policies’; what has changed since then? Professor Ken Reid, who led The National Behaviour and Attendance Review for the Welsh Government has pointed out introducing fines, would hit the poorest families. How can this help the poorest in Welsh society attain the best educational standards?"

The Mid and West AM commented: "Education Minister Leighton Andrews needs to reform support services and administration by local councils to ensure more money reaches teachers and pupils. Rather than this fining approach the Welsh Government should do more to support home school liaison officers, and increase their number so they can support pupils and their families. There is a correlation between areas of high deprivation and high levels of absenteeism. Clearly, children need to be in school in order to get all the maximum benefits out of the education system.

A large part of society believes that it is acceptable for children to miss the occasional lesson. But if children fall behind they can often struggle to catch up. Plaid believes that we need to change this culture and also give teachers the support they need. One important aspect the Welsh Government should look at is the literacy levels of those pupils not attending classes."

In 2010/11 the highest rate of unauthorised absence from secondary schools was in Cardiff at 2.9%

Mr Thomas added: "Plaid in government realised this was a problem. We included this in the power sharing agreement on Cardiff Council from 2008 to 2012. We worked collaboratively with a range of stakeholders to tackle the number of permanent and fixed term exclusions from Cardiff’s schools and worked to reduce truancy levels across the city.

"At a Welsh Government level we reviewed the disengagement from learning amongst children and young people to look at evidence of what works."