Mum never thought she would be jailed for allowing kids to play truant

When Ms Claudia Ward's children did not want to go to school after sleeping late the night before, she would allow them to skip lessons.

Sometimes, when she "wanted some company" at home, she would also let her kids stay home with her.

The 42-year-old felt her children would benefit from some "free-thinking" days at the beach or forest, rather than be "bored in a hot and stuffy classroom".

"If it was a sunny day and I thought one of my children would have been bored and sat staring out the window of the classroom wishing they were at the beach – I could not see the merit of them not being on the beach looking at rock pools,” she said.
"I don’t think this is something I need to justify to anyone – each family has their own methods of learning."

But a British court did not agree with her and sent her to jail for five months in February 2013. It was her fifth prosecution for failing to ensure her children's attendance in school.

Ms Ward is a single mum who has six children, aged between six and 24, from four different fathers.

Local education authorities in Cornwall, in the United Kingdom, first pressed charges against Ms Ward in 2008, then again in 2011 and 2012. But her children's attendance issues started from 2002, the court heard.

Three of her children missed more than one-third of their classes between September and December 2012 and one even missed a GCSE examination. That was a total of 73 school days each over that period.

Prosecutors had said the children's education was suffering through their absence.

The education council in Cornwall said it had been trying to work with Ms War for a decade at a cost of about S$30,000 and prosecution had been a last resort.

Education welfare officer John Heath said in court: "Claudia is a capable woman but has a very odd outlook as far as education is concerned."

'I know now that I was wrong'


Ms Ward, a freelance creative writer, told the Daily Mail in a recent interview that she was shocked that she was jailed but used her time behind bars to re-evaluate her principles.


"I accepted that my views on education were not correct and everyone must adhere to the same rules or there would be anarchy. It (her time in prison) was the wake-up call I needed," she said.

"When I spent my first night in the cell, the enormity of what I had done hit home.

"I felt so guilty... my stubbornness had meant I was in a prison wing, miles away from my young and vulnerable children."

She conceded that her ideas of education were more "outside the box and free-thinking".

"I was all about the children having an amount of choice themselves," she said.

"This didn't tally well with the national curriculum. It got to the point where there was no room for dialogue with the school and it was conflict all the way.

Ms Ward said that after her release from prison, her school-going children have all had perfect attendance records in school.

Source: Daily Mail