Norfolk parents jailed for failing to ensure their children properly attended school

Education chiefs in Norfolk have warned parents they face prosecution if their children fail to attend school.

It came after a Norwich father became the second parent in the county in just over a fortnight to be sent to prison for failing to ensure his children attended school properly.

Norfolk County Council brought the prosecution against John Heather, 51, of George Pope Road, Norwich, on Thursday in relation to his children's poor attendance. Heather pleaded guilty at Norwich Magistrates' Court and was jailed for 28 days.

In a separate case, on July 17 at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court, Julie Barnard, 36, of Duncan Road, Yarmouth, was found guilty after a trial and jailed for 14 days for breaching her suspended sentence for a previous attendance conviction imposed in April. Barnard was also sentenced to a further 14 days for a new offence regarding her son's poor attendance. Both sentences are running concurrently.

The child's father, James Burton, 39, of no fixed abode, was yesterdaysentenced to a 12-month community order with 80 hours' unpaid work for failing to ensure his son attended school properly. Burton had previously pleaded not guilty and was found guilty on July 17.

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Norfolk County Council has now brought 101 successful prosecutions this year. From September 2010 to September 2011 there were 392 successful prosecutions. At the same time overall attendance in the county has improved.

Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services, said: 'We provide a huge range of support for parents whose children do not regularly attend school and court action is always a last resort.

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'We don't want parents to end up in prison but we have to follow the law which outlines the parent's responsibility to ensure their child attends school. We want all of Norfolk's young people to achieve their potential and for those registered at school, this means they need to attend regularly. Persistent absence and overall absence has been falling in the county and we have seen improvements in the vast majority of cases where we have taken prosecutions.'

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