March 9 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, December 19, 2013
A co-ordinated sweep by officers from Suffolk County Council and the police found 43 youngsters truanting from school in Ipswich yesterday.
Education welfare officers and the police teamed up for the day to scour the town centre, retail areas and housing estates looking for school-aged young people during school hours.
Eight parents of children who were found yesterday have received £60 fixed penalty notices and 10 of the children were immediately returned to school by the officers.
Persistent failure to get a child to school can result in a jail sentence.
One woman in Ipswich yesterday told education welfare officers that her son wasn’t in school because he had spilt beetroot on his shirt the night before and she had to buy him a new one.
Reasons generally revolved around the child being unwell. One 14-year-old boy was discovered on his own without his parents.
Co-ordinated sweeps of the kind seen yesterday are carried out about 10 times a year in Suffolk.
In the last academic year over 200 parents in the county were prosecuted for allowing their child to truant.
323 young people were stopped in the streets during school hours and found to be out of school without permission in the academic year 2012-13.
235 of these were of secondary school age and 88 were primary school age.
Of the 204 parents prosecuted, 162 were for first offences and 39 were second offences. One parent was sentenced to four weeks in prison.
Suffolk is near the bottom of league table rankings for school attendance; 127th out of 152.
There is a strong correlation between poor attendance and academic achievement.
Figures from the Department of Education show that 88% of children that regularly miss days in school fail to gain five good GCSEs – 45% fail to get any.
Furthermore two thirds of young people with attendance of 93.5% and above get five good GCSEs (between A*-C). This drops to just over a quarter for pupils with attendance of 88% or below.
Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said: “As a busy parent myself, I know that it can sometimes seem necessary or desirable to take your child out of school.
“But when you consider the fact that a 90% school attendance record is equivalent to missing half a year of secondary school, it really brings home the need for young people to be in school learning every day.
“We have an excellent education welfare service in Suffolk and our staff work hard with police to educate parents about the need to ensure their children are in school. But sometimes tough action is needed to enforce the point that a child’s education must always come first.”
However last night Labour’s shadow spokesperson for education, skills and young people, Councillor Sonia Barker, said that tough action wasn’t tough enough adding, “this administration tinkers around the edges with the talking shop that is ‘Raising the Bar’.”
Citing figures that the number of fixed penalty notices issued for truancy in Suffolk was 0.63 per 100 pupils, compared to 11.57 in London, the former teacher said the role of education welfare officers needed to be strengthened and better resourced.
“We know that London schools have much better attainment than Suffolk schools,” she said. “But we also know that the authorities in London take attendance much more seriously than Suffolk County Council.
“It is time this administration stepped up to the plate and showed some leadership over the subject of attendance at school.”