Fine for St Austell mum as kids skip school
A ST AUSTELL mother has been ordered to pay more than £800 for failing to send her two teenage children to school.
Teresa Ellis, from Dobell Road, St Austell, was hit with a £400 fine and ordered to pay £436 in costs, after she was found guilty in her absence of the charges at Truro Magistrates' Court on Tuesday last week.
Her daughter missed the equivalent of 44 days at Penrice Academy between November 5, 2012, and April 26, 2013, and her son 32 days between January 7 and July 16 this year.
The Cornish Guardian broke the news to Mrs Ellis, who claimed to be unaware of the prosecution and "shell-shocked" at the fine.
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The 44-year-old said: "It wasn't for the lack of trying; I really did try [to get the children to attend school]."
The shocked mum branded the fine "totally excessive" and claimed she had never seen a letter summoning her to court.
She alleges her son suffers with migraines and both children had suffered a spate of bullying.
"When my son had his migraines I did ring into the school to make them aware."
She added that the penalty seemed steep.
"As young adults they have got their own minds. I can see both sides of the argument. Parents should make the effort to get their children to school but when you have teenagers it's not easy." David Parker, principal, said: "Attendance was very low over a very long period and it involved two children."
He said as far as he was aware no allegation of the children being bullied was made by their mother at the time.
Mr Parker said the children's attendance had been "spasmodic" and the decision to prosecute was taken only after all other efforts to try and return the children to school had failed.
In the past eight years only a small number of prosecutions had been brought against parents whose children attend Penrice Academy and only after all other steps had been exhausted, he said.
Ninety-nine per cent of the time prosecution was not required, said Mr Parker.
He added: "Our aim is always to have the children attending school, being provided with an education, so that they can pass exams and go on to be useful members of society."
John Heath, Cornwall Council's principal education welfare officer, said he hopes it sends a strong message to other parents and carers of their legal duty to ensure their children attend school regularly.
He said: "Most parents send their children to school regularly.
"It is crucial that we engage parents in ensuring their children go to school.
"As a local authority we are committed to raising attendance and tackling truancy. Attendance levels in Cornwall continue to improve year on year."
He said education welfare officers and schools, working with the parents and students, would have taken a series of steps before finally prosecuting.
"Where parents are finally taken to court for school attendance offences, they do run the risk of being fined or sent to prison," he added.