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Mother to be sentenced after 12-year-old daughter missed almost 300 days of school

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A MOTHER is awaiting sentencing after a court heard her 12-year-old daughter missed almost 300 days of school in four years.

Dublin District Court heard the primary school child had been upset by comments on social media and her mother also failed to co-operate with welfare officers trying to resolve the school attendance problem. The woman is being prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency after the situation continued to get worse.

Education and welfare officer Sarah Slattery told Judge John O'Neill that the child has missed 80 school days since September. The pupil missed 85 days in the previous year, 47 days the year before that and was absent on 80 days in the previous year.

She said she had been involved since 2011 and working closely with the school but to date the situation has disimproved.

Seven meetings at the school were held to address issues raised by the 12-year-old's mother, but the mother attended just one of them. Other supports were offered including a psychological assessment to ensure the child would be prepared to make the transfer to secondary school.

Fourteen letters were sent to the mother, the welfare officer called to her home five times and “never received a genuine reason as to why she has not been in school.”

Later, there was an allegation of bullying and the welfare officer arranged two meetings to help resolve the issue but the mother did not attend.

The school principal also told the court that once the issue of bullying was raised a bullying workshop was held to promote pupil self-esteem. However the child did not go to school when it took place and she also “missed out on a lot of interventions”, said the principal.

Defence solicitor David Stafford agreed the situation was not good and the woman's daughter had missed a significant number of school days. He said the mother feels that her daughter wants to make a fresh start.

The lawyer also said that “there was a mention of Facebook texts”. He also said the girl suffers from poor self-esteem but it was conceded that the mother could have “engaged more fulsomely”.

Judge O'Neill the Child and Family Agency had been trying to help the woman who should have responded. He noted that there was an allegation of bullying but the mother did not attend a meeting to address that issue.

“I can see why your child would say she is not interested, when you are not,” he told the woman.

He warned her that if her daughter did not get an education she would end up in the Children's Court in a few years time.

He also said noted that the school principal had said the girl was likeable child. He said it seemed a lot children encountered difficulty through social media and it was very easy for kids to be upset and distressed by comments made by bullies on Facebook in particular.

The mother could get fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month and has pleaded guilty to breaking the Education (Welfare) Act.

Adjourning the case until May, Judge O'Neill said he did not want to convict, fine or jail the mother. He said if the issues were resolved he will be able to treat her leniently but he also warned that if she did not co-operate, “it will not be to your advantage”.