At an event hosted by the Onward think-tank, Michael Gove made some comment about punishing parents.
He said stripping child benefit could help restore ‘an ethic of responsibility’, to parents who can’t ensure their children get to school.
Gove told the audience: ‘We need to – particularly after Covid – get back to an absolute rigorous focus on school attendance, on supporting children to be in school.
‘It is often the case that it is truanting or persistent absenteeism that leads to involvement in anti-social behaviour.
‘So one of the ideas that we floated in the coalition years, which the Liberal Democrats rejected, is the idea that if children are persistently absent then child benefit should be stopped.
‘I think what we do need to do is to think radically about restoring an ethic of responsibility.’
However, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘Not only is this wrong, it is also likely to be counter-productive.
‘It is very hard to see how consigning children to poverty and starvation will improve their school attendance.
‘School staff are already deeply concerned by how many children are living in poverty and the impact that has on their academic performance and wellbeing.
‘Persistent absence can only be successfully tackled by offering help, not punishment. What is needed are more support services and resources for schools to work with families and to refer to when there are issues.’
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