Nine jailed for letting children skip school
NINE people were jailed last year for not sending their children to school.
The number of parents brought before the courts increased dramatically, new figures from the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) reveal.
Parents and guardians of 102 children were taken to court over truancy. Court summonses almost doubled from 94 in 2010 to 186 last year.
But the total number of parents convicted of failing to ensure their children attended school halved, down to 28 in 2011 from 54 the previous year.
The numbers being sent to jail also went down, from 15 in 2010 to nine in 2011.
The NEWB said the courts were only used "as a last resort".
Last year, a total of 105 cases brought against parents by the NEWB were adjourned compared with just nine in the previous five years.
But despite the fall in convictions in 2011, the overall conviction rate was still almost one in three of all cases involving the NEWB since 2006, while one fifth had been struck out.
Some 501 summonses were issued in the same period.
District court judges issued three bench warrants for the arrests of parents last year when they failed to show up in court.
Another 16 cases were struck out, while another 14 were struck out with leave to re-enter.
Three cases were withdrawn and one was dismissed. Judges applied the Probation Act in seven cases.
There were more new cases involving children who had previously not come to the attention of the NEWB. The organisation has 16 vacancies that cannot be filled because of the public service moratorium.
Dan O'Shea, NEWB regional manager in Munster, said: "We use the courts as a continuum of prevention. We do not view a parent receiving a custodial sentence as a positive outcome. If the child returns to school, that is a positive outcome."
The NEWB was taking a harder line with parents who do not comply with agreements struck with a school to ensure their child attends, while just a very small percentage of cases coming to their attention are repeat offenders, he said.
The NEWB has streamlined the way it approaches cases, requiring parents to comply with agreed conditions in a shorter time, Mr O'Shea added.