Fining parents won’t address the real issues

EDUCATION Minister Martin Dixon’s proposed plan to punish parents with a monetary penalty if their children skip school is sure to attract criticism.

There are those who believe imposing a $70 fine on parents whose youngsters miss school more than five times a year without valid excuse is a harsh price to pay – and it’s a genuine argument.

Five days in a year is not a lot of schooling to miss out on – and it’s a sad reality that many parents find themselves unable to pay for petrol, lunches or school outings at least once a term and therefore keep their children at home.

Punishing those parents rather than helping them is not the answer.

Pride will always ensure some parents find “lame” excuses rather than tell the truth about their circumstances – and it puts enormous pressure on schools to define the difference between an excuse and a legitimate cause of absence.

But the idea behind the fine is valid – too many children are missing too much school.

There is no doubt truancy is an issue affecting most senior schools and indeed some primary schools – and some parents need to be reminded of the importance of their children committing to school and valuing their education.

Parents whose children regularly miss school need to be asking themselves, why?

Truancy, education and parenting are all sensitive issues – affected by a range of factors.

The approach to this needs to be sensible, sensitive and realistic – not a draconian approach that fails to take into account individual circumstances.  

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