101-days-off-school boy’s home ‘not conducive to health’

A COURT has heard claims that the poor condition of the home of a ten-year-old boy from the Ballymoney area, who missed 101 days from school in one year, “are not conducive to good health” and is continuing to impact on his ability to attend lessons.

The boy’s mother has been brought before the Youth Court in Coleraine charged with failing to ensure her child attends primary school regularly.

The 101 days were missed between August 29, 2011 and June 29, 2012, a year which contained around 190 school days.

The case was heard at the Youth Court in December, as previously reported on in the Ballymoney Times, but was adjourned to Tuesday February 12 where the Times was present again to hear Senior Education Officer James Smith state that unfortunately since December the ten-year-old’s attendance has not improved, but has declined.

He said the Education Welfare Service has been speaking to the boy’s mother and she said she is “experiencing significant difficulties with accommodation” and had registered complaints with the Housing Executive and is seeking a change of address.

Mr Smith said his department has been told that the boy has been “physically ill” and a GP is following up the case and he said his department is keen to support the boy and his mother to ensure the child is healthy and living in a house of suitable standard and is attending school.

A defence solicitor said the conditions of the boy’s home are “not conducive to good health” and were enough to keep the boy away from school but he said it is hoped the situation will improve with a better standard of accommodation.

The solicitor said the boy’s mother agreed her contact with the Education Welfare Service needs to be better.

The solicitor said he was seeking a two month adjournment to see if the situation regarding the boy will improve.

District Judge Richard Wilson asked the boy’s mother: “Do you not realise how important it is for a child that age to get education? I don’t think you have been putting your shoulder to the wheel ... try a bit harder.”

He said financial penalties can be imposed on parents who don’t send their children to school and, adjourning the case to April, he said he hopes to see an improvement in the situation by then.

Mr Wilson asked the woman if her son was at school (on the day of the court) and she said he was.

The parent of the child involved cannot be named to protect the identity of the boy.

Regarding school attendance cases, a North-Eastern Education & Library Board (NEELB) spokesperson previously told the Times: “The Education Welfare Service (EWS) is a specialist education support service, which seeks to help young people of compulsory school age and their families get the best out of the education system.

“The service promotes a culture of regular attendance at school. Attendance data is published on the Department of Education website at link http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/facts-and-figures-new/education-statistics/32_statistics_and_research_-_statistics_on_education-pupil_attendance.htm

“In accordance with best practice and legislative requirements the NEELB does not comment on individual cases.”