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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Parents warned over truancy
playground
The government links truancy with crime
Parents have been warned they must take responsibility for their children's schooling - after truancy sweeps found that many absent pupils were with their parents.

Almost 12,500 children were caught playing truant in a month-long clampdown in 34 education authorities in England with the worst absenteeism levels.

Truancy excuses
'A spot on my nose'
'I don't like Mondays'
'My hamster died'
'It's my birthday'
'We had to get new jeans'
'Buying new shoes'

"One of the most alarming aspects about these figures is the number of children stopped with a parent or responsible adult," said the newly-appointed minister for young people, Stephen Twigg.

Half of the pupils caught missing lessons were accompanied by their parents.

"By missing out on school they are limiting their potential and putting themselves at risk of drifting into crime and drug and alcohol," the minister said on a visit to Swanlea School in Whitechapel, east London

But the number of truants decreased in the course of the month - and it has been suggested that this could have been a result of the jailing of Patricia Amos, which occurred during the truancy sweeps.

Patricia Amos
Patricia Amos went to prison over her truanting children

Ms Amos, a mother from Oxfordshire, was imprisoned as a result of her daughters' truancy.

The survey found that a third of the children stopped by the 900 truancy patrols in May were primary school pupils.

A range of unconvincing excuses was given from many of the pupils playing truant.

One boy said he could not go to school because he had a bad spot, while another said he was missing lessons to replace a dead hamster.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "Far too much truancy is condoned by parents."

"Schools use many different ways to improve attendance, but these are of little use unless parents support them."

Holidays in term-time

There is particular concern about the number of school days being lost because parents take their children on holiday in term time.

The Department for Education is planning a publicity campaign against such mid-term breaks.

A second set of truancy sweeps will go ahead in September.

The first were carried out over four weeks from 29 April.

As well as the patrols, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he would back a plan to cut benefit payments to parents of out-of-control children.

Police officers may also be stationed in schools with high truancy and discipline problems.

Unveiling the plans in April, Ms Morris said: "The bad news is the link between truancy and crime is too great to ignore - the good news is, if we do something about it, we can actually begin to reverse it and make progress."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"Young truants think it's all too easy"
See also:

27 May 02 | UK Education
28 May 02 | UK Education
27 May 02 | UK Education
13 May 02 | UK Education
18 Jun 02 | UK Education
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