186 parents charged in truancy crackdown
MORE than 180 parents were brought to court last year for failing to send their children to school.
As part of the growing crackdown on truancy, nine were sentenced to prison.
It's not known how many, if any, of these parents spent time in jail because of overcrowding.
The 186 cases were up from 34 prosecutions and two custodial sentences in 2006, the first year court actions were initiated.
In the worst-case scenario, parents convicted for not sending their children to school are sentenced to up to one month's imprisonment. A fine of up to €654 is an alternative.
According to latest figures from the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), there was a slight downward trend in truancy in the years between 2005 and 2010.
But while the overall picture has improved slightly, there is no improvement in hard core cases -- the pupils who miss at least 20 school days a year.
The biggest challenge is 14- to 15-years-olds, particularly boys.
"This can lead to a conflict situation, where parents are doing their best, but the child won't go to school. How do you prosecute a parent who is doing their best?" said an NEWB spokesman.
Figures for the 2009/10 school year, due to be published shortly, will show that more than 56,000 pupils miss school each day, with primary pupils missing an average of 11 days an academic year and post-primary pupils missing 13.
It translates into an absenteeism rate, across primary and post-primary, of 6.8pc, which is at the lower end for the five years to 2010.
Overall, 69,471 fewer school days were lost in 2009/10 when compared with 2008/09.
The main focus of educational welfare staff are pupils who miss more than 20 days a year.
Last year, they worked with more 8,700 children.