First-Hand: 'If it was a lesson I didn't like, I just didn't go': Truancy is rising. Andre, 15, and a pupil at a London comprehensive, explains why he has been doing it

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Indy Lifestyle Online
PRIMARY school was all right. I enjoyed it and had lots of friends. We worked quite hard there because they gave us a free lesson on Thursdays as a reward. I liked some of the teachers, but I did have problems because I've got a bad temper: I get angry because I've got this stutter and a few of the kids laughed at me.

The thing is, I was bullied in primary school - beaten up by a boy who was much older than me and really vicious. I didn't have fights myself, but I used to shut people up by shouting at them. I felt like fighting inside but I held back because of my parents. They are strict and I got in trouble with them.

The head of the school told me to calm down. They helped me at that school over the years, but I didn't listen to them because I think I was selfish. I just didn't want to listen, so I'd mess around in the classroom and stop people doing work. I'm not good at school work and it was getting hard.

When I came to secondary school things started going wrong. I really enjoyed the first four weeks, and I came on time every day, but then I started getting bored. The work was too hard. There was an after-school club to help you, but I just didn't go - I wanted to follow my friends, and they weren't going there. But I was only doing minor things in the first year, like not coming to class on time. I used to go to the toilets a lot - alone, not with my friends. I don't know why I did that, but I liked going into class late so that I would be an attraction - drawing attention to myself, I suppose. I used to like showing off, because there were lots of boys who wanted to be strongest and hardest in the year, and I felt that by showing off I could be that. But it didn't work.

It got worse in the second year. There was too much work at school and homework, and I had some teachers who didn't like me and shouted at me. Going to their lessons made me sick - just sick. I just wanted to go away. I started to truant at the end of that year. I would usually come to school, like three days out of five. But this school always rings up your parents if you don't come, and my mum is at home.

I've got four sisters - three younger and one older - but I'm the only boy and I'm lonely at home. All my sisters were doing well at school, it was only me who wasn't. My mum seemed to think that all my friends were bad and she kept me in. There was only one boy that she trusted - if I was with him she thought I wouldn't get into trouble. But I live in a rough area and she just wanted to keep me away from it - I see that now. My mum came into school a bit and sat down and talked to me and I did listen for a few weeks. But I always changed back.

After that I'd usually come to school to register, and then if it was a lesson I didn't like I'd go and hide on the back stairs. There were just two of us - me and my friend. I don't know how they found out, but they did after a time. Then I had to report in at every lesson.

I was still getting angry and using bad language to the teachers. I don't mean to say things, but they just come out of my mouth. I was being a pain in class, too. It felt good. I felt I was getting on top of the teacher. I would come in late and sit down, and she'd ask me to get my work out and I'd say no. She would tell me if I didn't she would send me to the head's office, and I would say, 'Go on then'.

Going to the head worried me - he was the one who could expel or suspend you. I tried to show off to the other kids that I wasn't scared, but I was. I was suspended about four or five times for a few days. I was afraid of being expelled because all my friends are here, and I'm a bit shy because of my stutter.

I think the change came when my two friends got expelled. If you have bad friends you start doing bad things, and if you have good friends you do good things. Another friend of mine came who I knew from primary school, and he told me to stop being around those boys.

Not many boys truant in this school, but a lot do where I live. I don't say anything to them. You just truant for fun. Teachers can tell you to stop, but if you don't, then they just have to let you be. In the long run it's going to affect you and not your teacher.

I'm starting to get along now with a few teachers who I never used to like, and the boys I used to hate are my friends. If I had gone on messing around I would be expelled by now.

Interview by Julia Hagedorn

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