One mum jailed for letting son skip school - as another avoids prison term

Lindsay Ellison failed to take her six-year-old daughter to school often enough, magistrates were told
Lindsay Ellison failed to take her six-year-old daughter to school often enough, magistrates were told

A mum who allowed her teenage son to continually skip school has been locked up.

Julie Valentine, 43, of Central Drive in Blackpool, was jailed for six weeks on Wednesday after three previous fines for truancy failed to put an end to it.

Education chiefs today welcomed the punishment meted out by magistrates, which came after the schoolboy’s attendance rate plummeted to just 27.2 per cent since last September.

Blackpool Council’s schools boss, Coun Kathryn Benson said: “Parents need to be getting their children to school regularly – that is not only a legal duty but a moral one too if they want their children to do well in their exams and then in later life.

“We will always offer support to help families if there are problems or barriers with getting children to school, but there has to be a line whereby punishment becomes the only remaining option.

“This is a strong sentence handed down by the magistrate and should serve as a clear message to all parents to make sure that their child is attending school regularly.”

Valentine was also ordered to pay £115 victims’ surcharge. Her son will stay with a family member until she is released from prison.

Under the Education Act 1996, parents are guilty of an offence if a child fails to go to school regularly, though there are certain exceptions.

They include headteachers giving permission, illnesses and other emergencies, religious events, a parent’s trade requiring them to travel from place to place, and when a school is outside walking distance – two miles for under eights or three miles for over eights – and travel arrangements have not been made by the authority.

Staff at Blackpool Council’s pupil welfare office said they become concerned when attendance drops below 95 per cent because ‘young people with poor attendance are less likely to do well’.

Those who finish the school year with 85 per cent attendance will have missed five weeks of learning, as well as lowering their chances of exam success.

Lindsay Ellison, 31, was also hauled before magistrates on Wednesday after her six-year-old daughter’s attendance dropped to 29 per cent.

Education welfare officers had visited her home in Fayles Road, Marton, on a number of occasions, but were met with a ‘barrage of excuses and threats’, they were told.

Ellison did not turn up to court but was found guilty in her absence.

A warrant was issued for her arrest, and she was given a 12-month community order, a 20-day rehabilitation order, fined £50, and ordered to pay £685 in costs and £85 victims’ surcharge.

She could have faced a fine of up to £2,500 and a spell behind bars of up to three months.

Last month, government statistics showed pupil absences have remained broadly stable since 2013/14, while overall absence rates have followed a generally downward trend over the past decade.

In 2015/16, the overall rate across state-funded primary, secondary, and special schools was 4.6 per cent, down from 6.5 per cent in 2006/07.

The number of youngsters classed as ‘persistently’ absent made up around 10.5 per cent of them.