Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Truancy timeline: 1997-2009

1997

Labour enters office after Tony Blair's landslide general election victory.

Education minister Stephen Byers announces 22m for tackling truancy.

The use of pagers to contact parents is tested.

1998

The government sets a target of cutting truancy in England by a third by 2002.

Tony Blair highlights the strong links between truancy and youth crime.

Education Secretary David Blunkett announces 500m to reduce truancy and school exclusions.

Computerised registration tested.

Police are given new powers to bring children back to school.

The unauthorised absence rate for 1997-98 in England is 0.7%.

1999

Estelle Morris announces 65m on anti-truancy projects in England.

Fines for parents in England and Wales increased to 2,500.

Swipecards tested for registration.

The unauthorised absence rate for 1998-99 in England is 0.7%.

2000

Criminal Justice and Court Services Act allows parents of persistent truants in England and Wales to be imprisoned for up to three months.

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke tells the House of Commons: "I believe it extremely unlikely that the courts will choose to imprison a parent."

174m anti-truancy drive announced by David Blunkett, including "truancy buster" awards for schools in England. There are warnings that 80% of parents facing truancy charges do not turn up in court.

Secondary school in Nottingham hires security guards to keep in pupils and installed spike security fences tipped with paint which marks pupils' uniforms if they try to climb in or out.

The unauthorised absence rate for 1999-2000 in England is 0.7%.

2001

Education minister Jacqui Smith announces 11m e-registration plan, saying it could cut truancy in England by 10% in two years.

Mobile phone text messaging for parents is tested.

In Scotland, former military instructors are used in a pilot scheme to curb truancy.

The unauthorised absence rate for 2000-01 in England is 0.7%.

2002

Education Secretary Estelle Morris announces greater role for police in stopping truancy.

Patricia Amos in Oxfordshire becomes the first parent to be jailed for her children's persistent truancy. She is sentenced to 60 days, reduced to 28 days on appeal. She serves half of this.

Tony Blair considers the withdrawal of child benefit for truants' parents.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke says that head teachers will be able to fine parents of truants.

The target to cut truancy by a third is missed with the unauthorised absence rate remaining unchanged - replaced by a new target for a 10% cut in two years.

The unauthorised absence rate for 2001-02 in England is 0.7%.

2003

Fast-track prosecutions of truants' parents introduced.

A mother from Llanelli becomes the first parent of a truant to be jailed in Wales.

First father of a truant jailed, in Blackpool.

Travel agents told to warn parents of dangers of term-time holidays.

The unauthorised absence rate for 2002-03 in England is 0.7%.

2004

Patricia Amos jailed for a second time.

"Spot fines" up to 100 issued to 40 parents in England, as new penalty is introduced.

A Devon mother is electronically tagged and put under curfew to stop her child's truanting.

Fingertip scanning for pupils tested in Cambridgeshire.

The target of a 10% cut in truancy has been missed. Unauthorised absence has marginally increased. A new target aims for an 8% reduction by 2008.

The unauthorised absence rate for 2003-04 in England is 0.72%.

2005
National Audit Office says 885m has been spent on anti-truancy initiatives since 1997 but the rate of unauthorised absences remains unchanged.

English education ministers announce a deal with the travel industry to discourage term-time holidays.

Threat of fast-track prosecutions for parents of "hard core" of 8,000 truants.

The unauthorised absence rate for 2004-05 in England is 0.78%.

2006

The 198 secondary schools with the worst truancy records in England are named and shamed.

So far there have been 71 parents jailed because of their children's truancy.

The annual figure for unauthorised absences rises to above the level of 1997.

The unauthorised absence rate for 2005-06 in England is 0.79%.

2007
The way of collecting pupil absence figures in England is to be changed to a termly basis.

The Child Catcher from the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is used to tackle truancy in Southampton.

There have been 23,000 truancy penalties issued to parents.

Survey finds 38% of people support jailing parents of truants and 75% support fines.

The unauthorised absence rate for 2006-07 in England is 1%.

2008

Truancy rates in England reach their highest level since 1997, with 63,000 pupils missing lessons every day.

More than 30,000 truancy-related penalty notices and 19,000 parenting contracts have been issued in past four years.

More than one in 20 children in secondary schools identified as being at risk of becoming persistent truants.



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