ColumnistsVogue Williams

How about fines for parents when kids miss school

Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten

I’ve seen what missing school can do to kids life chances.

I have seen first-hand what no education can do to a child.

I spent a day filming in Miami-Dade Bootcamp with young offenders.  They had school during the day, but most of them were illiterate.

These were 16-year-old boys and upwards who couldn’t read. They consistently missed school and were now facing a life without an education and very few job opportunities.

Last week Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was criticised for his plan that child benefit payments should be linked with school attendance.

Instead of families automatically receiving the money, they would get it based on their child’s school attendance. I don’t think it would work, but I do think it is a good idea.

Mr Naughten said this would prevent child benefit fraud. Every year €75 million in child benefit is being paid out to children that either do not exist, are no longer resident in the country or are no longer entitled to child benefit.

I know people will say I shouldn’t be giving my opinion on this as I don’t have a child. Fair enough, but I was sent to school and it’s exactly how I would bring up my own child as I know how important an education is. It’s a parent’s responsibility to ensure that their child goes to school.

I think education its the most important thing you can give your child and if they don’t attend school or aren’t home schooled they are missing out. There are cases in Ireland of children missing a massive portion of the school year. These children aren’t sick, but are just refusing to go to school. And they are being allowed to stay at home due to weak parenting.

I didn’t have that option. I think I missed school twice from illness in my life – it would take a lot for my mother to let me take a day off. There were, of course, times where I would take the day off myself and hide in a friend’s house, but they were also very rare.

In the U.K. parents are fined £60 or more if they take their child out of school during term time without permission, as many choose to do to avail of cheap holidays. The fines are not to annoy parents; they are simply there to ensure the child gets an education.

If a portion of child benefit is held back, parents would be more inclined to ensure their child is in school. It’s a drastic measure, but it may be a necessary one to stop so many absences. 

Last year the Department of Social Protection sent out over 300,000 letters to parents of children who had missed a lot of school.

We are a first world country and are lucky enough to have a good education system, so this should be used to every child’s advantage.

New test can curb club attacks

A new product has been launched that allows you to test your drink to check whether you have been spiked with a date rape drug.

I think it’s a great idea, but I’m not so sure people will always use it. The problem with drinking is that you tend to become a bit more trusting and less aware of your surroundings.

I think I would use it if I was in a nightclub where you might leave your drink down in a group. The new product consists of small sheets of paper that change colour if your drink is spiked.

This is still a big problem with people being drugged in nightclubs and more often than not they end up being assaulted in some way.

I think anything that could stop this happening is a great idea, but maybe a straw with the same effects would be an even better product.

I know in Aberdeen, where I went to University, they did a test where they  put little floating ducks into people’s drinks to show how easily someone can be spiked. My friend came home with three ducks one evening and it  showed us how easy it really was.

I would be quite careful with my drink if I was out in a club. I would usually keep it in my hand, but we could all do with being more aware of the issue.