Failure of truancy crackdown results in tougher policies

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Truancy rates have failed to come down despite a series of government measures aimed at tackling the problem, figures published yesterday showed.

Truancy rates have failed to come down despite a series of government measures aimed at tackling the problem, figures published yesterday showed.

The percentage of days lost to truancy in the 2001-02 academic year is exactly the same as the previous year's figure – 0.7 per cent – even though police launched truancy sweeps and a woman was jailed for failing to send two of her daughters to school.

In response, the Government will introduce a "fast-track" system under which parents are likely to be prosecuted within 12 weeks if they do not ensure their children attend regularly. The scheme – which will mean parents face fines of up to £2,500, parenting orders compelling them to accompany their children to school or even imprisonment – is to be tried out in six local education authorities next month. Most are likely to cover inner-city areas with high rates of truancy.

Stephen Twigg, an Education minister, said: "Children cannot learn if they are truanting from school. There is also the risk that truants then drift into crime, causing problems for their community and society in general." He said parents must accept "their share of responsibility" for attendance levels.

The announcement was backed by the promise of further truancy sweeps. This year, sweeps picked up 12,000 truants in four weeks, many of whom were in the company of their parents. In addition, Patricia Amos, a single parent from Oxfordshire who has five children, was sentenced to 60 days in prison for failing to ensure two teenage daughters attended school, despite two years of warnings.

The announcement received a mixed response from teachers' leaders. John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said it would "send a strong message to parents that they must ensure their children are at school".

Doug McAvoy, the National Union of Teachers' general secretary, said: "These sweeps must apply equally to Harrods as well as Woolworths. Any other approach would send a message that only pupils from certain areas are being targeted."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the return of "refusenik" children would leave teachers facing "an increased incidence of pupil misbehaviour".

Comments