Smith announces crackdown on truancy

An estimated 8,000 serial truants in just 146 secondary schools
account for one in five instances of truancy across the country, it
has emerged, writes Clare Jerrom.

Schools minister Jacqui Smith has announced a crackdown on poor
school attendance and will ask the 146 schools to identify their
most persistent truants and place their parents immediately on the
fast Track to Attendance Scheme.

This means there will be an automatic court prosecution
triggered unless the child’s attendance at school improves
over a 12-week period and this could result in a fine of up to
£2,500 or three months in jail.

“It is disappointing that a stubborn minority of pupils,
estimated at 8,000 in just 4 per cent of secondary schools, remain
determined to jeopardise their education and their futures through
persistent truancy,” said Smith.

“While the causes of truancy are complex and challenging,
we will focus on this minority who are responsible for much of
unauthorised absence,” she added.

As part of the scheme, each truant and their parents will be
assigned a truancy officer who will draw up plans to improve school
attendance. Support will also be on offer to help young people
tackle wider issues such as mental health or substance misuse

Schools and local authorities are also seizing new powers to
tackle unauthorised absences such as penalty notices and parenting

However the figures showed that on the whole school attendance
continues to rise in 2004/5 with 8,000 more pupils regularly
attending school every day than in the previous year.


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