pounds 200m bid to cut truancy

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair tomorrow unveils his "big idea" of bringing the excluded back into society, starting with pounds 200m of lottery money to combat school truancy, writes Paul Routledge.

A Social Exclusion Unit, chaired by the Prime Minister, begins work immediately on measures to improve life for an estimated five million affected by crime, unemployment, ignorance and bad housing.

Launching the initiative at a London school, Mr Blair will say: "We are passionately committed to making Britain one nation, giving every single person a stake in the future and tackling chronic poverty and social division."

The 12-person unit is to report to Mr Blair by Easter on measures to reduce "dropping out" by school students. One in 10 pupils admits to playing truant at least one day a week in the vital GCSE exam year.

There is also a link with crime: 42 per cent of school-age offenders sentenced by youth courts have been expelled.

The pounds 200m will be spent on after-school clubs to motivate youngsters. By 2001, half of secondary schools and a quarter of primary schools will have clubs.