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Volume 546: debated on Monday 18 June 2012

In view of your earlier ruling, Mr Speaker, I shall limit my answer so that it focuses narrowly on Nuneaton’s truancy problems. The Government agreed with Charlie Taylor’s recent recommendation to focus on improving the attendance of vulnerable pupils in primary schools, to prevent patterns of poor attendance from developing. In response, we are reforming absence data collection to publish information on the attendance of four-year-olds. We are also tightening regulations on term-time holidays, so that they are authorised only in exceptional circumstances, and we have uprated the penalty fine levels for parents who shirk their responsibility to ensure that their children attend school.

I thank the Minister for his response. Given the positive impact that parents’ involvement can have on their child’s education and attendance at school, what steps is he taking in addition to those that he has just mentioned to ensure that parents are encouraged and supported to become involved in that way?

This needs to involve a combination of rewards and penalties. New guidance will come into force next year, which will give head teachers the power to issue penalties, including penalty notices. In 2010, local authorities were responsible for bringing 11,757 attendance prosecutions when parents failed to ensure that their children attended school. Surely, however, the best incentive for parents is the knowledge that the very best start in life they can give their children is to ensure that they go to school on a regular basis.