Parents of truants told they face jail

A week after one mother was handed a suspended prison sentence over her son's truancy two more parents from Great Yarmouth were warned they could go to jail.

A week after one mother was handed a suspended prison sentence over her son's truancy two more parents from Great Yarmouth were warned they could go to jail.

At the same Yarmouth Magistrates' Court session on Friday another mother was told the bench was considering imposing a community punishment order because of the poor school attendance record of her two sons.

Roger Fox, the County Hall officer who handles truancy court appearances, said he was content both cases had been adjourned for probation reports because that showed how seriously the court was taking such cases in terms of level of punishment.

As evidence of Norfolk County Council's uncompromising stance on persistent truancy, he said: “Just this week I have conducted cases in King's Lynn, Swaffham and Norwich as well as Yarmouth.”

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He added that the number of truancy prosecutions since September had already passed the 93 people who appeared before magistrates in the whole of the previous school year.

Gary Johnson and Natalie Baxter, of Chaucer Road, Yarmouth, had been found guilty in their absence of failing to send their children to school at a previous hearing.

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Addressing the bench yesterday, Mr Fox said their eight-year-old son Kyran had attended school on only 46 days out of a possible 160 since September while the record of their nine-year-old daughter Ebony was even worse, attending school just 14 times in the same period.

Both youngsters were now at the town's Greenacre Middle School although Ebony had started the school year at Caister Middle.

Mr Fox said a lot of support had been given to the couple to help them get their children to school and settled there. They had four similar previous offences and were in breach of a conditional discharge imposed in October 2006.

Warning the pair that a custodial sentence was a possibility, magistrates bailed them to return on April 18 so probation reports could be obtained.

Gail Barrett, of Exmouth Road, Yarmouth, who had been found guilty at a previous hearing over her sons' truancy was bailed until April 25 to obtain probation reports, the bench saying a community punishment order was likely.

Mr Fox said her two sons, Lyndon, 11, and Laban, 12, had chalked up more than 200 days of unauthorised absence between them since the start of the school year.

Ms Barrett had failed to keep meetings with attendance support workers and not taken up the offer of parenting skills support.

However, Ms Barrett said she had tried her utmost to get her children to school.

She said Laban was now attending classes at Yarmouth High School “and loving it” but Lyndon felt picked on at North Denes Middle and was still prone to walking out of school.

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