London, Feb. 23: Thirteen families will be prosecuted in one day this week under the government’s crackdown on parents who persist in allowing their children to play truant.
The parents will appear before magistrates in Essex on Wednesday in the first cases brought under a new fast-track system being piloted by nine local authorities.
Ministers warned last night that the mass prosecutions in Thurrock would be repeated across Britain, with many people facing jail, unless parents accept that they have a legal duty to make their children attend school.
Despite repeated warnings and the jailing last year of a mother whose children regularly missed school, a national truancy sweep at Christmas found that more than half of all young people absent from school were with their parents.
Ivan Lewis, the education minister with responsibility for truancy, said: “We have had this politically correct nonsense where behaviour and discipline were dirty words. We are determined to put an end to poor behaviour in schools and in society generally.
“It is entirely right that we demand that parents fulfill their responsibilities. Parents must send their children to school and support schools in reinforcing discipline. Prison is a last resort but it is a legitimate option when everything else has been tried and failed.”
The families due in court this week were warned at the beginning of the school year and given help to improve attendance but it is claimed that they consistently failed to make their children — aged five to 16 — go to school. In the worst example, one child is said to have attended just 23 per cent of the time.