Truancy growing problem in Northern Ireland, says MLA

The overall trend in truancy in Northern Ireland is upward, said MLA Sam Gardiner
The overall trend in truancy in Northern Ireland is upward, said MLA Sam Gardiner

There is a clear trend towards rising prosecutions for truancy in Northern Ireland, a UUP MLA has said.

The news comes after a report by the Press Association found the problem also on the rise in England.

In total, 16,430 people in England were prosecuted for failing to ensure that a child went to school in 2014 – equivalent to around 86 cases for each day of the school year. This is up a quarter on 2013 when 13,128 people were taken to court.

UUP MLA Sam Gardiner said that his recent Assembly question found prosecutions have also been broadly up over the past seven years in Northern Ireland.

He found there were 70 prosecutions in 2007; 44 in 2008/9; 104 in 2009/10; 113 in 2010/11; 93 in 2011/12; 189 in 2012/13; 162 in 2013/14 and 126 in 2014/15.

Mr Gardiner said: “There has been a hike in fines and prosecutions of parents in England, but here in Northern Ireland we also have a problem.

“The answer to my recent Assembly question shows major fluctuations year to year, but the overall trend is clear: an increase in fines and prosecution for parents and guardians who have failed to co-operate with education welfare officers.”

He added: “The Department of Education needs to show it has a strategy to deal with this problem, so that it is nipped in the bud, and matters do not end up in court.”

The overall rise in prosecutions may illustrate a clampdown on parents taking children out of school on holidays, he added.

General secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, Avril Hall Callaghan, said truancy isn’t an issue their members are approaching them about. The issue tends to be “headed off” by educational welfare officers rather than teachers, she added.