TWO sets of Swindon parents accused of failing to ensure their children’s attendance at school have had the charges against them dismissed by magistrates.

The decision was a wise one, and we hope it will set a common-sense precedent.

Laws to ensure school attendance are vital, as chronic non-attendance blights a child’s education - and therefore the rest of their life.

Unfortunately, a lack of clarity around the current regulations means those regulations are prone to being used inappropriately and counter-productively.

In the latest Swindon case, the children involved had attendance records in excess of 90 per cent, and their parents decided to take them out of school for family holidays.

While there is abundant evidence that chronic truancy can have a disastrous effect on a child’s education, there is no credible evidence that removing a child from school for a few days’ holiday has any negative effect whatsoever.

Nor is there any suggestion that the parents of the children in this instance are in any way neglectful or otherwise inadequate as nurturers and caregivers.

That being the case, was it really necessary to haul them before a court?

Quite apart from being a questionable use of scarce resources, such cases have a negative impact on public opinion. There is a perception, whether accurate or not, that respectable parents are targeted as low-hanging fruit while the genuinely neglectful are allowed to carry on regardless.

If a law intended to safeguard children from the effects of neglect comes to be seen as unfair, that is a cue for the law’s administrators to consider adjusting their attitudes.