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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September 2004, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Rise in teenage truancy figures
police in truancy sweep
Many local authorities have been clamping down on truants
There has been a rise in truancy figures for secondary pupils in England, despite a campaign to clamp down on the problem.

Unauthorised absence in secondary schools has gone up slightly to 1.14%, government statistics reveal, with authorised absences down, at 5.84%.

At primary schools, a smaller percentage of children were absent, with or without permission: 5.49%.

Overall absences from all England's schools were down 0.26 to 6.57%.

At secondary level, the fall in authorised absences - covering time taken off for hospital appointments or holidays approved by the school - was 3.9% on last year.

The figures relate to the percentage of half-day sessions missed, which is the official way of measuring the issue, and are provisional for 2003-04.

The government says it will continue to focus on the small hard core of truants responsible for the problem of unathorised absence.

Schools minister Stephen Twigg said it was "clearly disappointing" to see unauthorised absence levels rise.

"Our message that 'every day in school counts' is getting across, overall school attendance is at record levels and the majority of parents are supporting schools in ensuring their child attends regularly," he said.

"Schools are also treating absenteeism more rigorously, challenging questionable reasons for absence and cracking down on unnecessary term-time holidays.

"However, a stubborn minority of pupils, often with parental collusion, remain determined to jeopardise their education and their futures through persistent truancy."

"While the causes of truancy are complex and challenging, we will focus on this hardcore 2% who are responsible for much of unauthorised absence."

One in four truant

The statistics, which cover the last academic year, show that almost a quarter of all secondary school pupils truant at some point.

A total of 2,784,834 (92.4%) took authorised absence, averaging 23 half days, while 696,328 (23%) played truant or were otherwise absent without permission, on average for 15 half days.

In England's primary schools, 3,279,937 (91.5%) took authorised absence at some point, on average for 17 half days each.

A total of 564,248 (15.7%) took unauthorised absence, on average for eight half days.

Earlier this year, a fixed penalty scheme for the parents of truants came in, whereby they can be fined 100 by either the police, education welfare officers or head teachers.

Parents of persistent truants have also been sent to jail in the crackdown on absenteeism.

The government says half of children caught during truancy sweeps are absent from school with a parent's knowledge.

The government missed its target to cut unauthorised absence by 10% between 2002 and 2004.

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association said: "In recent years, schools have put an immense amount of effort into improving attendance.

"It is clear from the attendance figures that measures to improve the situation are working, but there is no magic cure."

The BBC's James Westhead
"On average, 49,000 children are skipping school every day"

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27 Feb 04 |  Education
Family holiday 'truants' targeted
23 Feb 03 |  Education
Truancy crackdown 'paying off'
02 Jul 03 |  Education

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