Tessa's Tête-à-Tête
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Monday, 23 May 2005
National Walk to School Week
Topic: In the News
Today is the start of National Walk to School Week. In October, there will be another event, International Walk to School Week. If your children's schools are not taking part in the National initiative then, hopefully, they will promote the International event in the autumn. Why is this important? Well, health for one thing. Children today don't get enough exercise and walking or cycling to school will help to combat child obesity and will keep them fit.

My grandchildren walk the mile or so to their school each day but, nationally, it seems that this is becoming a dying practise. Part of the reason is that parents worry about road safety or 'stranger danger'. They are 'rushed off their feet' so they take the easy way out and use the car. Did you know that the school run contributes to 1 in 5 of all cars during the morning rush hour? This increase in road traffic causes congestion and is directly related to the number of car accidents involving school children, which rise during term time. It seems that this accident rate could be dramatically lowered by the implementation of staggered school hours. This is something which is already happening in the Chichester area with at least one secondary school starting extra early — although I think the real reason was the availability of school buses!

If walking is out of the question, what other action can you take? Well, car sharing is one answer - organise a rota to take your child and your child's friends to school. This simple solution will have an impact on the problem of school gate congestion. Many local schools have already registered with the West Sussex Young TransNet to formulate School Travel Plans and make school journeys safer. Make sure you support your school by doing your bit as a parent.

Posted by Noviomagus at 13:06 BST Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Monday, 23 May 2005 - 18:27 BST

Name: doubledog

Yes, some parents drive kids to school because of safety concerns, but it's more than that. During my years as a teacher, I worked in a mostly blue collar area. Over time, that slid downhill and became largely the unemployed segment of society. Folks like that, some of them second and third generation living on government benefits, see no advantage to education. A child accidentally seduced into temporary interest in a school subject can face a lot of ridicule from family and friends who contemptiously call him, "School boy."

Lots of times children skip school with their parents' permission...that is, until the school files suit against them in family court and a judge garnishes $500.00 of their government benefit check. At that point parents insist that the children go to school in order to avoid paying another fine. However, the children don't want to go to school where they have to sit up and pay attention and think and do what they're told. So when Mom says, "Go to school," the kids leave their home, but just spend the day at the mall or all congregate at the home of a child whose parents are somewhere else for the day. After a while, in desperation, parents have to start driving their kids right up to the door and in some cases also need to walk the little darlings into the classroom. PLENTY of parents can not say, "Go to school," and feel confident that their children will actually show up for class.

In the State of Michigan this began to turn around a short while ago because the legislature passed a law that no one's government benefits could extend beyond two years. At that point, those claiming not to be able to find work are given make-work jobs by the state and are paid the minimum wage. Those forced, in this way, to work very hard for very small reward, soon come to the conclusion that they need better skills...they show up in night school trying to qualify for higher paying work. They still don't value school as anything but a route to easier, more remunerative labor. I've heard lots of parents say to their children, "You don't want to grow up like me, do you? You see how hard I have it, working two and three jobs for minimum wage? Well, then, go to school when you're supposed to, and take it seriously." Deeply entrenched anti-education attitudes, though, don't go away easily. In a family where not one person has ever graduated from high school, kids don't want to show up for class. To even get them into the school building, someone has to drive them right up to the door.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005 - 12:04 BST

Name: Tessa

The problems of school truancy and school phobia exist in the UK as well. Usually, it is the children with poor literacy skills and a negative attitude who go absent and there is a definite link between poor attendance and disadvantage. We are lucky in West Sussex, as this problem is probably less severe than in more deprived areas.

However, every UK school has at least one Education Welfare Officer, employed by the Authority, whose job it is to check on the attendance of every pupil and liaise with parents. They will visit homes and give advice and, occasionally, even drag pupils out of bed! If truancy still continues, parents are taken to court. If found guilty, they can be fined up to #2,500 or even be sent to prison for three months in extreme cases. There was one famous case in 2002 where the single mother was sent to prison for a few days. The resulting shock to her daughter apparently did the trick and she went back to school! However, it was not a lasting lesson to the parent or to her younger child as it happened again!

Tuesday, 24 May 2005 - 13:02 BST

Name: doubledog

My WORD!!!! I think the British fine would work out to about $4,500 in American dollars??? How could someone pay that, a person who couldn't even afford new shoes for the children? This is Draconian. You know, I have never heard of a case like that in the USA. Probably have BEEN such cases, but not to my knowledge. I have only known about instances of the $500.00 fine levied against parents with a bad attitude. The picture of that woman's face... I think that I have a great deal to be thankful for. That poor soul's life of humiliation and degradation. Another drug disaster. Interesting about the girl becoming an award-winning student. Yes, the children were better off with their mother in jail and she was probably better off in jail, too, away from temptation. Still...every time I'm afflicted with a sense of injury over my "problems", I hear about a situation like this and must look myself in the eye and say, "Shape up, Joanna. You are without excuse."

Tuesday, 24 May 2005 - 15:56 BST

Name: Tessa

In 2002, when the government cracked down on parents who persisted in allowing their children to truant, #2,500 was the maximum amount parents of truants could be fined. (Before that it was #1,000)

In practise, most first time offenders would be fined #50-#100 under a fixed penalty scheme. I agree, most parents couldn't pay a large fine - the alternative is 3 months in prison.

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