Extra £43m earmarked for tracking down truants

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The Independent Online

An extra £43m to help hunt down truants was promised by the Government yesterday.

An extra £43m to help hunt down truants was promised by the Government yesterday.

Local authorities will receive a total of £174m this year to spend on truants and unruly pupils, 10 times the amount that was available four years ago.

The money, which will be paid to local education authorities, will fund more schemes to enable police and social workers to search the streets for young people who should be at school. Some 50,000 pupils stay away from school without permission every day.

Youth crime in York has been cut by 67 per cent since the authority introduced truancy watches in the city centre. All children, even if they are with an adult, are asked why they are not in school.

Attendance at Montgomery High School in Blackpool improved sharply when the head paid for an extra teacher to work with truants, and shopkeepers were asked to tell the school when they suspected young people were bunking off.

Another successful government-funded programme is at Valentines High School in Ilford which has employed staff to phone parents of children who are absent from school.

Part of the money will be used for learning mentors who will try to motivate the disenchanted and reduce bullying. Off-site sin bins - pupil referral units - will offer 1,000 more places this year than in 1997.

Jacqui Smith, the minister for School Standards, said: "Too many children are missing school and cutting their chances of success in life. Our crackdown on truancy will continue at a pace with this significant investment. The increased funds will allow schools and local authorities to set up more innovative projects."

Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "This is good as far as it goes but some of the money is misdirected. We need more off-site pupil referral units and fewer on-site ones."