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16pc of primary pupils miss 20 days each year

ONE in six Dublin primary school students miss more than 20 days of school a year, according to a report published by the National Education Welfare Board.

The report also revealed how nearly one in five post-primary students in the capital miss more than 20 school days every year.

Labour TD John Lyons, a former teacher, raised the issue in the Dail when he asked Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald for a breakdown of the figures for his own constituency, Dublin North West.

Mr Lyons told the Herald that nothing is being done to punish parents whose children are missing more than 20 days a year.

"The National Education Welfare Board hasn't been strong at taking serious action. It's a good set-up but the delivery on good attendance just isn't there.

"As far as I'm aware there is legislation allowing for parents to be brought to court for their children having very high levels of absenteeism. Obviously everything possible is being done to avoid that.

"I can't think of a good, morally reasonable punishment. Fines might work, but I don't really want to see us go down that route.

"There are a number of reasons for poor attendance, such as a lack of parents' understanding of the importance of sending children to school, even if they're late. Some parents have an attitude of 'Ah you're late, you may as well stay home'," he said.

"Bullying is also possibly an element and possibly a very serious element."

Deputy Lyons said some localised programs have successfully increased attendance.

"In Ballymun, they've increased attendance by 85pc. It's that kind of bottom-up approach that seems to work best.

Deputy Lyons said he believed any absences could have lasting effects.

The report only examined county Dublin schools, but Deputy Lyons believes the figures are representative of the entire country.