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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
Truancy: A hard nut to crack
playground
Truancy: Every story is different
The number of children playing truant from schools is not falling dramatically as the government had hoped - in fact it has not budged since targets were set four years ago.

Education welfare officer Ron Collinson says this can be explained by the fact that truancy is a complicated, multi-causal problem that cannot be conquered in a day.


Ron Collinson has spent the past 27 years working to get children in Liverpool attending school. It's not a job for the faint hearted.

"It requires an enormous amount of resources and an enormous amount of dedication," says Ron.

"With all school attendance work you have to put in enormous effort for small gain, but that's typical."


There's no typical case, it's complex and multi-causal and people are only just waking up to this

Ron Collinson
In Ron's experience, this is because truancy is caused by such a wide range of social issues.

"There are a limitless number of reasons why children miss school," he said.

"It can range from the extremely minor and mundane to the very serious and deep-rooted.

"For example, I once had a boy who was missing school because he was too shy to find out where he stood for the dinner queue.

"It became a real issue with that child.

"But then there are hard-edged social issues that lead to truancy, such as drugs, alcohol, abuse, crime - factors which are not the schools' remit to address.

"There's no typical case, it's complex and multi-causal and people are only just waking up to this."

'It's okay'

Ron also believes there is a sense in which people take school for granted.

Ron Collinson
Ron Collinson: Slogging away at the problem
"We're all familiar with school, so there's an element of 'familiarity breeds contempt' and it doesn't become a high priority.

"So this is why a lot of the children who are picked up on truancy sweeps are off shopping for the day with their parents.

"'It's just a day, what's the problem?' they seem to think.

"But they don't understand the damage they're doing, they're actually starting a problem that's very hard to break and that can affect the children's life chances."

But Ron, who is now acting principal education officer for social inclusion at Liverpool City Council, is not deterred by the hard work involved in bringing truants back into class.

"People are realising the importance of this - it comes out in crime, in social exclusion, in anti-social behaviour.

"The common denominator is that these people had a poor or non-attendance at school - and we all pay the price for that."

See also:

08 Oct 02 | Education
27 May 02 | Education
28 May 02 | Education
27 May 02 | Education
13 May 02 | Education
18 Jun 02 | Education
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