Tags: Attendance | Headteacher | Home-School Coordinator | School Governor | School Leadership & Management

Truancy is continuing to increase, despite the government’s concerted efforts to crack down on unauthorised absence from school through measures including police sweeps and penalty notices for the parents of truants.

The schools minister, Jacqui Smith, played down the increase, choosing instead to highlight an overall increase in school attendance in England. This came about because a fall in the number of authorised absences in 2004-2005 outweighed the rise in unauthorised absence. It appears from the figures that the drive to reduce absence brought about by pupils taking holidays during term time or having medical appointments in school time has had more effect than the campaign to discourage truants.

The statistics, which are still provisional, show unauthorised absences as a percentage of total attendance rising for the second consecutive year – and by a larger amount than normal fluctuations. The jump of 0.07% to 0.79% was the biggest since 1998 when unauthorised absences rose from 0.70% to 0.74%, a figure that was not beaten until this year. Unauthorised absences increased in both primary and secondary schools, although the jump was most pronounced at secondary level.

As the figures were released, Jacqui Smith announced an intensive drive against an estimated 8,000 ‘serial truants’ in 146 secondary schools, who account for 20% of all truancy across the country.

The schools will be required to identify their most persistent truants and place their parents immediately onto the ‘Fast Track to Attendance’ scheme, which will trigger an automatic court prosecution unless their child’s attendance improves over a 12-week period.

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