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Opinion: Schools are absolutely right to fine parents if their kids are late

Can’t get your child to school on time? You’re a bad parent

Every morning at 8.30am, an alarm goes off on my mobile phone.

As soon as he hears it, my twenty month old toddler knows the drill. Coat on, hat on, Thomas the Tank Engine backpack packed and strapped on his back, then out to the car for the short drive to nursery, before I go to my office for my day’s work.

My husband leaves for work at 6.30am so I’m flying solo, but we’re a well-oiled morning machine (most of the time!) and I hope I’m sowing the seeds early, teaching Ruadhan to understand that being on time and organised are essential life skills.

As anyone with a toddler knows, it’s not easy, it’s a bit like herding a cat. He has no concept of time, often runs away while I’m trying to feed him, and is prone to trying to jump in the shower with me after I’ve dressed him. But, we manage by laying clothes out the night before, getting up early and sticking to our routine as much as possible.

Today it’s nursery, in a few years the same will apply to school, and beyond that the workplace. Start them young when it comes to punctuality, I say, as how else will they learn?

Eimear and her son Ruadhan, who she's teaching to be punctual (credit: Eimear O'Hagan)

Which is why I couldn’t agree more with Winter Garden Academy’s plan to fine parents whose children are consistently late for school. Regular latecomers to the school in Canvey Island, Essex, will get a fixed penalty notice, and if they don’t pay, parents may be hauled in front of a judge to account for themselves.

Predictably there’s been uproar from parents and non-parents on social media, whining that it’s over the top, too strict and too much to ask of them to get their kids out of bed, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door on time to reach school by 9am.

Seriously? Are these people living in the real world? This isn’t brain surgery. What is so difficult about being punctual? If this is too much responsibility for them, it really concerns me about their adequateness as parents in general.

Eimear admits that getting your kids out the door isn't always easy (credit: Getty)

Of course we can all have a morning where things don’t go to plan. Kids misbehave, breakfast gets spilt on clean clothes and a change is needed, shoes go missing. And some children have special needs which make it a lot harder to stick to a routine.

But the school isn’t planning to penalise parents if lateness is a one off, rare occurrence, or there are very exceptional reasons for it.

The target is the repeat offenders who have no reason other than laziness or a lack of care about their child’s education. You know the ones. Trudging down the road to school at a snail’s pace, head buried in their mobile phone, child trailing behind them.

And don’t even get me started on the ones who turn up at the school gates (late) in their pyjamas with a coat over them. When you can’t even be bothered to get dressed to take your child to school on time, what sort of message are you passing on to them. Be late, be slovenly…achieve nothing in life kids.

What really enrages me is that there are so many children around the world who don’t get to go to school, because of war, poverty or having to work to support their families. Given the chance I’m pretty sure they’d be on time every morning, and grateful for it, not moaning on Facebook about it.

Eimear believes it's parents duty to teach their children basic life skills (Credit: Alamy)

I’m sure there are parents who’d argue that a few minutes late is no big deal, but they’re wrong.

Over the course of the school year those minutes add up. Plus, their child is not just missing valuable learning time, but being taught that you don’t have to stick to the rules, you can do as you please and show up when you feel like it.

Yeah, try doing that with an employer. That child will be handed their P60 pretty sharpish, and it’s mum and dad who’ll be to blame.

Parents: Get up, get organised, get your little one to school and stop moaning about it.

Do you agree with Eimear that it's every parent's duty to get their children to school on time and teach them basic life skills like punctuality? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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