Pupils to advise Blair on truancy solution

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CHILDREN who regularly skip school joined panels yesterday to advise the Prime Minister on how to tackle truancy.

Unison and the National Association of Social Workers have invited 100 children to take part in panels in London, Scotland and the north-west. Their ideas will be sent to the Government's social exclusion unit.

Unison reckons that 800,000 children - one in ten - play truant. Some are as young as seven.

John Findlay, the union's national officer for social services, said: "It is the first time kids have had a chance to talk about this as a group. They say school is boring and frustrating. There is peer pressure to skip school. Most of them feel they can't go back to school because they will get told off.

"It doesn't seem to be a very healthy way of dealing with the problem.

"We have to look at wider things, at schools' attitudes, at parents' attitudes - many parents encourage it - and at social and economic reasons.

"Many of these kids want an education but not this one. A lot of them are really bright kids. 800,000 kids can't be wrong.

"There is something wrong with our social and educational system and we need to take a fresh look at it."