Research reviews

Evaluation of Fast Track to Prosecution for School

Researchers: Karen Halsey and colleagues
Funder/publisher: Department for Education and Skills

Fast Track was introduced into nine local education authorities
in 2003 and has now been rolled out to many more. It is a system
for speeding up the process of prosecuting the parents of
persistent truants. This evaluation by the National Foundation for
Educational Research found that it was being implemented
differently in different areas.

In the original model, proposed by the Department for Education
and Skills, action by the school would be triggered if attendance
by a pupil fell below a specified level. This included monitoring
attendance, letters and home visits to parents or carers, the
convening of a school panel, and an action plan with targets to be
met within four weeks. If parents do not co-operate and attendance
does not improve, a summons is issued by the local education
authority and unless a case review decides otherwise, the case is
taken to court within 12 weeks.

Among the pilots some focused on getting “entrenched cases” to
court as fast as possible but at others a wider range of cases were
targeted in the hope that by intervening early, attendance would

The general view was that Fast Track had a positive impact,
especially in relation to education welfare service procedures. It
found that Fast Track had led to a more structured approach to
dealing with non-attendance and had raised the profile of
attendance issues. Parents had become more aware of their
responsibilities, and pupils’ attitudes improved.

In half the cases studied attendance improved under Fast Track.
But improvements tended to be short term, and once families were no
longer under the Fast Track system, school attendance dropped

The evaluation found that Fast Track was more effective with
borderline families than others. “Entrenched non-attendance was
often associated with other issues within the family situation and
Fast Track was not seen to be as effective in these complex cases,”
say the researchers.

There was also a problem of parents being unable to make their
children attend school, whatever threats were made against

The main challenges identified by professionals were
record-keeping, workload, maintaining positive relationships with
families and delays in the court process.

Understanding adolescent smoking initiation
Researcher: Mark Connor
Funder/publisher: Economic and Social Research Council

More girls are taking up smoking than boys, and many young
people who resist in their early teens take up the habit a couple
of years later.

This research, involving 1,500 young people in Leeds over six
years, included breath and saliva tests for some as well as

It followed up on an earlier study which included many of the
same children, and showed a big increase in the proportion smoking.
At age 13-14 three-quarters said they had not smoked during the
previous term, compared with only 56 per cent two years later.

At age 15-16 nearly twice as many girls as boys were smoking
regularly – 31 per cent compared with 16 per cent.

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