Falmouth mother Claudia Ward jailed for children's non-attendance at school
A FALMOUTH mother has been sentenced to 20 weeks in prison for failing to send her children to school.
Magistrates sentenced Claudia Ward on Friday, when she was prosecuted for the fifth time over the three persistent truants.
Cornwall Council said it has been working with her for a decade at a cost of about £15,000 and prosecution was a "last resort".
John Heath, education welfare officer, said: "Claudia is an able and capable woman but has a very odd outlook on life as far as education is concerned.
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"She feels the children should decide if they wish to attend school.
"We have spoken about options like home schooling and flexible learning but she wants them to have a school place."
The children, aged 6, 14 and 15, missed more than a third of sessions (mornings or afternoon) between September and December last year – equalling 146 sessions in total, or 73 whole days' worth.
The youngest missed 47 out of 126 sessions at Falmouth Primary School. The 14-year-old missed 55 out of 128 at Falmouth School and the eldest 44 out of 128.
This was despite Ward, 41, of Meadowbank Road, being on a suspended sentence imposed in June for them missing 57 days over a three-month period the previous year.
She regularly failed to attend meetings with school and education officials.
"It can be very frustrating," said Mr Heath. "We have tried and tried (to engage with her).
"It is a shame. We always hope we don't have to take this sort of tough action, but we had no choice.
"We just want the children to go to school. We don't want parents going to prison, as I feel they can do something about getting their children to school.
"The education consequences are obvious. It is more likely children with a poor school record will leave with poor qualifications.
"These children could do well; they are bright."
Ward's mother will look after the three siblings and her youngest child, who is not yet at school, while she is in prison.
Social services are aware of the case.
But Mr Heath hoped prison would help Ward change her ways, just like Susan Hunter, of Truro, who was jailed in 2010, but whose daughter has had 100 per cent attendance since then.
"I hope this will have a salutary effect ... and she will work closely with us."