Leading Article: The best way to stop children skipping school

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The Independent Online
ALL THE Government's efforts to cut truancy rates in England's state schools have been to no avail, according to the National Audit Office. Despite an outlay of pounds 885m and threats to jail the parents of persistent truants, truancy levels are unchanged.

Maybe, though, threats and cajoling are not the best way to coax reluctant learners back to class - and providing a vibrant curriculum which is of more interest to them is. There is much anecdotal evidence from schools of "targeted truancy" - pupils skipping their least favourite lesson or least favourite teacher - rather than giving up on education and going home (or worse, to the street corner and a life of petty crime).

Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, acknowledged yesterday that in some areas a curriculum offering more vocational education has persuaded youngsters to stay at school.

The threats may look impressive in headlines - which could be why the Government has pursued them for so long. But long-term improvements in the standard of teaching and the range of subjects will look even better if they succeed in bringing the truancy rates down.