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Law on school absence should cover five-year-olds: Crowe

31 August, 2011 - by Seán Crowe TD


Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson, Deputy Seán Crowe, has supported the Irish National Teachers’ Union (INTO) call that the law on absence from school should cover five-year-olds.

Deputy Crowe said figures released this week showed that 98% of the 67,000 children starting primary school will not be covered by the law covering absenteeism during their first term at school. They cannot be monitored by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) until the new year, when most of them will have their fifth birthdays.

He said, “The current legislation only covers children and young people between the age of six and 16. Therefore, schools have no power to take action against parents of children under six who miss 20 days or more. This is unacceptable.

“NEWB statistics show that one-in-ten primary pupils miss at least 20 days of school each year. This is particularly damaging for a child who has just started school as the first couple of years in a classroom are vitally important in developing literacy and numeracy skills.

“Education Minister Rúairí Quinn must address this matter. Often absence from school is the first indication that a child is not being properly cared for at home. If there is no legal mechanism to deal with absence from school in very young children, the authorities have no means to intervene on their behalf.

“I will be raising this matter with Minister Quinn in the hope that he will address this anomaly in legislation. It is important that every child is given the best start at school and parents must be compelled to ensure their children attend school regularly.” ENDS

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