Opinion Former Article

NUT: Support not punishment is the best way to tackle truancy

The largest union for qualified teachers in Wales says it is not convinced that fining parents is the most effective way to tackle truancy. NUT Cymru, responding to the Welsh Government’s plan to fine parents £120 for their child’s absence from school, said that tackling truancy had to be a priority, but doing so involved making parents part of the solution, rather than alienating them from the process.

NUT Wales Secretary David Evans said:

“Persistent truancy is obviously a problem. The impact is not only clear on individuals who find themselves lagging behind in confidence and an ability to understand what is going on in the classroom, but, given the emphasis put on attendance as part of the Welsh Government’s school banding system, it also has consequences for schools. This is an issue that has to be addressed and it is positive to see it given high priority on the Education Minister’s agenda.

“However, while this is an important debate, we are concerned that the Welsh Government is planning to adopt a policy of fining parents. What parents and children alike need is support rather than punishment. Parents need to be part of the solution and not be further alienated from the education of their children. This policy has the potential to cause more harm than good.

“We know that truancy and poverty are linked. Financially punishing parents will, in all likelihood, hit the most vulnerable people and those families closest to the poverty line. How will these financial penalties impact on families who are already struggling to cover household bills? There will also be questions around families where one child may truant, but other children attend school regularly. Financially punishing the family as a whole will do nothing but put additional pressures on all concerned. That will have consequences which will create new problems as well as exacerbating existing ones.

“The Welsh Government is right to prioritise truancy. This is a very serious issue that impacts on the life chances of individuals and the overall ability of schools to ensure high standards. However, this approach does not appear to be the best way forward. What we would like to see is the Welsh Government taking a different approach to that of the Westminster Government, and instead working closely with local authorities to ensure that there are support systems in place for parents and schools to call upon in order to deal with hard core truancy”

Owen Hathway
Wales Policy Officer / Swyddog Polisi Cymru
National Union of Teachers

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