Police sweeps fail to deter truants, suggests survey of local authorities

Truancy sweeps are an ineffective use of police resources and
most of the children stopped are not truanting, a new report

The survey of 120 councils, carried out by the children’s rights
organisation Action on Rights for Children, finds each police
officer took 82 minutes to pick up a truant, during sweeps carried
out last autumn.

It says more than 16,000 hours of police time are spent on
truancy sweeps each year – equivalent to annual working hours of 10
full-time police officers.

Terri Dowty, director of Arch, said figures were often quoted
for the total number of children stopped, incorrectly implying that
they were all truants.

“Sweeps may give the impression that something is being done
about truancy, but the misleading figures that are bandied around
only mask the fact that the truancy sweep initiatives are having no
effect on children who are missing out on education,” she said.

The charity called for resources to be switched to tackling the
causes of persistent truanting.

Stephen Mason, president of the National Association of Social
Workers in Education, said truancy sweeps raised the profile of
school attendance but did not tackle entrenched truanting.

“I would support investment [in sweeps] being given to dedicated
support for entrenched young people,” he said.

Charles Clark, the lead on youth matters at the Association of
Chief Police Officers, defended the use of police resources, saying
it “seemed like money well spent”.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesperson said that the
government “made no apology for taking a tough line on pupil

Meanwhile, a separate study has found that rates of unauthorised
absence have not changed in 10 years and permanent exclusions have
risen by 20 per cent since 2000, despite the government spending
more than £1bn on tackling poor attendance and challenging

The study, which was produced by New Philanthropy Capital, a
charity that advises donors on how to give more effectively, says
the government is hampered by the tension between being seen to be
tough on poor behaviour and the needs of all pupils.


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