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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 11:31 GMT
80 per term tackles truancy
Truancy has been linked by the government to street crime
A school which had one of the worst rates of truancy in the country is tacking the problem by paying pupils to attend lessons.

Pupils at Firfield Community School in a deprived area of Newcastle upon Tyne can earn as much as 80 per term in rewards for not missing days, behaving well and for attending work experience.

The experimental scheme, which is funded by sponsorship by a gas company, Transco, has succeeded in cutting truancy - and could be extended for another year.

In West Yorkshire, pupils have been offered 500 to take maths A-level
"This is preparing pupils for a working environment - where if you meet your responsibilities you're paid for it. it might be seen as bribery - but if it works, that's what matters," said a spokesman for Transco.

Firfield Community School is one of nine 'fresh start' schools - new schools re-opened on the sites of failing schools which have been deemed beyond recovery and have been closed down.

The 'old' school - Blakelaw Comprehensive - suffered from low results and high truancy, with as many as a quarter of pupils sometimes missing from lessons.

The payments are being made to 15 and 16 year olds at the school, in an initiative that follows similar reward schemes in the Bronx district of New York.

The government has set targets for cutting truancy and absenteeism, arguing that there are strong links between children dropping out of school and the incidence of street crime.

Free tickets

This concept of offering pupils cash or other incentives has been attempted in other areas of education.

In West Yorkshire, sixth formers in nine secondary schools have been offered 500 a year bursaries if they study for maths A level.

Professor David Rhodes, a millionaire who made his fortune from an electronics company, is so concerned by the shortage of scientists and engineers that he is funding his own incentive scheme to encourage pupils to study maths.

Schoolchildren at Charles Dickens Junior School in Portsmouth have been offered free tickets for a play park if they can achieve a 100% attendance record.

And students are offered 5,000 in the form of a 'golden hello' if they enter teacher training for maths, science and modern languages.

And on a larger scale still, the government's reform of teachers' salaries depends upon the introduction of performance-related pay.

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See also:

01 Nov 99 | Education
Schools get 500,000 to cut truancy
12 Oct 99 | Education
Excluded pupils 'lost' in the system
14 Sep 99 | Education
Truanting to avoid taunting
30 Sep 99 | Education
Warning for truants' parents
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