Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

SCHOOL (non) ATTENDANCE

The last couple of weeks have seen headlines in the media of “education this or education that”. Notwithstanding hot beds of alleged encouragement of pre pubescent extremism in Birmingham and compulsory nutritional requirements for school meals the old chestnut of pupils` non attendance is also back in the news. Earlier this week I had such a matter before me and my colleagues.

There are special allowances for the children in traveller, tinker, gypsy or romany families. There are, however, distinctions made between “settled” and “unsettled” families. The child in our case (aet.15) who was not in court was from a settled family but had missed two years schooling until he was enrolled in 2012. His father had done everything in his power to encourage attendance; he had attended all required meetings with education officials, had driven him to school every morning but no amount of persuasion could ensure the child was in a classroom for the requisite lessons. As he told us, “ Short of dragging him by his hair and chaining him to the classroom wall could I have done anything else.” The child was not in any way in need of mental assistance, his physical health was excellent although he was subject to some bullying owing to his being behind his peers in reading ability but that had been kept in check by watchful teachers. He had wanted to leave school at aet.16 to attend college. The school could not justify the costs involved in such a decision taking all factors into account. We felt some sympathy for the father but the law was quite clear and a case presented by the prosecutor and endorsed by our legal advisor was explicit. That case involved a child who had been subject to persistent bullying, was being treated for mental health problems and who had attempted suicide. Her parents had nevertheless been found guilty of not ensuring required attendance at school contrary to section 444(1A and (8A) of the Education Act 1996.

We fined the father who was of good character a small percentage of the £600 costs requested and a similar fine. We understood of course the law`s function  ensuring that irrespective of many factors its primary purpose is that every single child shall have the opportunity of an education and that that responsibility falls upon the parent(s) or guardian. Just perhaps the hurdle in such matters is a little high.

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