Woman in court over truancy

A SWINDON mother claimed that paranormal activity was behind her two children’s absence from school.

The 29-year-old, who lives in West Swindon, but cannot be named for legal reasons, was brought before Swindon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday after consistently failing to take her eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son to school.

The single parent, who is on benefits, brought in priests and mediums to try to resolve the strange activity, the court was told.

The mother admitted the offences which occurred between January 1, 2008, and March 18, 2008, while the family was living in Walcot East. The case was brought by Swindon Council.

Simon Emslie, prosecuting, said that between those dates the girl had missed school on 23 out of 94 occasions giving an attendance rate of 67 per cent, while the boy had not attended 34 times out of a possible 94 – a 64 per cent attendance rate.

Despite the involvement of an education welfare officer, who made several phone calls, sent letters and arranged meetings and home visits, the attendance continued to fall, the court heard.

When the six-year-old was referred to the school nurse, his mother said she had been having problems getting him dressed and getting him to have breakfast.

Mr Emslie said there had been three previous convictions in 2007 for truancy matters, resulting in a conditional discharge.

Sambreen Arif, defending, said her client had not missed all the appointments, though she had been pregnant at the time, which had made it more difficult.

She said that the paranormal activities issue had been raised with the school.

Because the family lived in a council-owned property the mother had been unable to move straight away.

Miss Arif said: “She was trying to make her children go to school, but she accepts responsibility. It was not just a blanket ‘I’m not sending them to school’ – she did make some efforts.”

The court was told that since the children had moved to a new school other family members had moved into the area.

Since then, the children’s attendance had risen to 84 per cent for the eight-year-old and 79 per cent for the six-year-old.

In sentencing, Felicity Beard, the chairwoman of the bench, described it as a very difficult case.

She said the bench had taken into account the improvement, but they had also considered that the mother had not attended meetings and the breach of the conditional discharge.

“This is, as you now know, very serious. It’s very important children go to school for all sorts of reasons,” said Ms Beard.

The mother received a six-month supervision order and was ordered to pay £300 costs.

A council spokeswoman said: “We take unauthorised absence very seriously and when it occurs we work with the family and school.”

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