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School truant's mum is sent to jail

PUBLISHED: 16:05 16 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:28 30 June 2010

Parents who fail to send their children to school were sent a stark message last night after a mother of five was sent to prison.

Lisa Ashford was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail after repeated convictions over her children's long absences from the classroom.

Parents who fail to send their children to school were sent a stark message last night after a mother of five was sent to prison.

Lisa Ashford was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail after repeated convictions over her children's long absences from the classroom.

It is only the second time a parent has been sent to prison for failing to ensure their child attends school in Norfolk.

The 40-year-old appeared before King's Lynn Magistrates' for the sixth time after her 15-year-old daughter Racheal skipped 100 school days over four months this academic year.

Ashford admitted that Racheal, who is registered at King Edward VII School, had only been to school on 31 out of 150 days between October 15 and February 12 this year. Only 19 of those days were authorised absences.

After the case, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services Alison Thomas said the council had to show it would be tough on parents to ensure children were receiving the education they were legally entitled to.

The court heard that Ashford, of Westfields, Fairstead, Kings Lynn failed to attended meetings and explain her daughter's unauthorised absences.

Roger Fox, prosecuting for Norfolk County Council, said the latest conviction was the sixth Ashford had faced.

“Consistently now over seven years she has been failing to enforce that any of her children attend school”, he said.

Defence lawyer Alison Muir said Racheal was not at court to support her mother and that Ashford was struggling to cope with her daughter.

“The offence that my client has committed is that she was not able to force a wilful 15-year-old to go to school”, she said.

“She is not the author of her own misfortune. She has tried what she can. The threat of prison has been put forward and Racheal has clearly not acted on it.

“Racheal said she was going to school when she had not been going. She has clearly been manipulative in telling her mother she was going”, she said.

Ashford was given a six-week suspended prison sentence last July for failing to ensure her daughter had attended school.

Ashford was sentenced to eight weeks custody for the new offence and four weeks of her suspended sentence were activated, making a total of 12 weeks in jail. Two weeks were taken off the previous suspended sentence because of the 80 hours of community service Ashford had completed.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council said they were working to ensure the children were looked after while their mother was in prison.

The court heard that her youngest daughter is no longer living with her.

After the case, Mr Fox, who is the court officer for Norfolk County Council Children's Services, said: “From my point of view there are mixed emotions. It is very sad that it's come to this, but equally when we've got parents who are persistently not sending their children to school, we need the support of the magistrates to change things.

Mrs Thomas said: “We know that bringing cases like this to court makes a difference. Persistent absence and overall absence are falling in Norfolk and we have seen improvements in attendance in the majority of families where we have taken prosecutions.”

A further three parents admitted failing to ensure their child attended school at King's Lynn Magistrates' Court yesterday. Two parents were handed a conditional discharge and one a £150 fine.


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