Cameron says families of truants could lose benefits


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Parents whose children constantly play truant from school face the prospect of having their benefits cut, David Cameron warned yesterday.

The Prime Minister acknowledged it would be a "tough measure" but added: "We urgently need to restore order and respect in the classroom and I don't want ideas like this to be off the table." Social policy review groups, which are looking at how to react to last month's riots, were investigating the idea.

Discipline and rigour were necessary to mend a "broken society", he said. Parents needed to know there were consequences for their inaction, he said at the opening of a free school in Norwich – and headteachers, needed tools to restore discipline.

"But restoring discipline is also about what parents do," he added. "We need parents to have a real stake in the discipline of their children, to face real consequences if their children continually misbehave."

Plans to cut the benefits of parents whose children played truant were mooted in 2002 but scrapped. Instead, ministers introduced penalty notices, with fines of up to £100 if parents failed to pay within 42 days. In extreme cases, parents have been jailed.

Figures show the percentage of pupils absent from school without permission for a half day dropped from from 1.1 per cent in 2010 to one per cent this year. However, that is still around 65,000 pupils skipping school at any one time, a number ministers have said is still "too high".

Margaret Morrissey, of the parents' pressure group Parents Outloud, said: "Parents have got to be made responsible for their children's actions but I don't think this is helpful. Those who can't get their children to school need support with their children – or even support with their own lives."