Primary school truancy on the rise

TRUANCY rates among primary school children in Suffolk are on the rise, The Evening Star can reveal.Latest figures show that on average one in every 16 absences at primary schools across the county between September 2004 and August 2005 were classed as unauthorised.

TRUANCY rates among primary school children in Suffolk are on the rise, The Evening Star can reveal.

Latest figures show that on average one in every 16 absences at primary schools across the county between September 2004 and August 2005 were classed as unauthorised.

This compares to one in every 18 absences being unauthorised in 2003/04 and one in every 20 during 2002/03.

The primary school with the worst truancy record is Chantry Junior School where one in four absences were unauthorised between September 2004 and August 2005.

Councillor Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services at Suffolk County Council, said she was concerned with the increase in primary school truancy.

She said: "School attendance is critical to the development and safety of every child and young person.

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“In Suffolk, a great deal of work is carried out to encourage parents to ensure their children do not miss any school time.

“Happily, Suffolk's figures for attendance are consistently higher than the national averages, but every year they are subject to uncontrolled factors such as sickness, which will affect the final figures and which will in part account for small falls or increases.

“However, we are always concerned when attendance figures fall, as they did in primary schools last year, which is why there is never any let up in our efforts to improve the rates of school attendance in Suffolk.”

Despite concern over primary school attendance in the county, the truancy situation in secondary school pupils is improving with latest figures showing a two per cent drop in unauthorised absences.

Between September 2004 and August 2005, 1.29 per cent of total Suffolk secondary school days were taken off without consent.

This compares to 1.32 between September 2003 and August 2004.

However the figure is still up 19 per cent on the 2002/03 number of 1.08 per cent of absences being unauthorised.

n.What do you think should be done to combat truancy? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Weblink:

www.suffolk.gov.uk

Tackling truancy - In summary

Since September last year a total of 40 Suffolk parents have been prosecuted for their child not attending school with a further 27 prosecutions in the pipeline.

The most recent Suffolk parents to be prosecuted for their child playing truant was a couple from Lowestoft who were convicted on July 21 of failing to make sure their nine-year-old daughter went to school.

The father was ordered to do 50 hours unpaid work while the mother was ordered to do 60 hours of unpaid work.

In total 280 people have been prosecuted by Suffolk County Council since September 2001 for failing to ensure their child attends school.

Out of this total 48 were handed punishments other than a fine or discharge.

Just two have been jailed.

An Ipswich mum was jailed for 21 days in April 2005 over her nine-year-old boy's attendance record.

An Ipswich father was jailed for seven days in June 2005 over his 12-year-old son's attendance record.

NUMBER 11 Fact file with file pic of previous truancy sweeps

Efforts at cracking truancy:

Eight children were returned to school following a truancy sweep in Ipswich in March this year.

The sweep saw 31 people stopped - 16 boys and 15 girls.

In all, 23 children were with parents when they were stopped.

Reasons given for being truant included collecting glasses from the opticians, having a hair cut, suffering from a sore toe, feeling unwell to simply wanting a day off.

The sweep was carried out by Suffolk County Council with the support of Suffolk police as part of a national campaign to tackle truancy and improve school attendance.

Parents and carers who have questions about school attendance and truancy can call the Education Welfare Service on 01473 584787.

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