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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