Page last updated at 06:32 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 07:32 UK

Truant officials in Wales 'dragging feet'

Teenage boys
One in four secondary pupils in Wales are missing school on a daily basis

Officials are "dragging their heels" over tackling truancy in Wales where last year more than 450 parents were prosecuted, an expert has claimed.

Prof Ken Reid says he fears his report on the issue has been sidelined amid concerns about public spending cuts.

He says there are "pressing needs" for training for teachers on managing pupils' behaviour and attendance.

However, the assembly government told the Eye on Wales programme Prof Reid's recommendations "remain a priority".

The former deputy vice chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University has questioned the outcome of the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) which he chaired from 2006 to 2008.

His findings and recommendations received cross-party support and led to to the assembly government announcing measures last spring, focussing on earlier intervention, better training and improving literacy to prevent young children becoming disaffected by school.

'Get worrying'

A year on, while there has been consultation and meetings of an implementation group, Prof Reid says there is "frustration" among professions about its outcome.

"We have secondary schools in Wales where one in four pupils are missing school on a daily basis; even primary schools where 80 to 85% is the normal daily attendance.

"I think the primary school figures are starting to get worrying," he said. "I think there are some pressing needs.

"Unlike their counterparts in England, staff in Wales do not receive regular training on managing pupils' behaviour and attendance."

Prof Reid said the former education minister Jane Hutt promised £1m for the initiation, and teachers and other professionals were "continually asking" about when these initiatives will take place.

Prosecuted

Annette Jones, of Aberdare, fears she may be prosecuted over her son, Darien's, persistent absence from school.

Darien, 15, has special needs, which his family claims are not being met.

She says: "When I call him to get up in the morning, he says no… he's very aggressive. I called the social workers in… they were saying, you've got to get him to school or you'll be prosecuted."

Rhondda Cynon Taf council said there are no legal proceedings pending and they recognise Darien's special needs and are doing all they can to support the family.

Paul Davies, the Conservative's education spokesman in Wales, has tabled written questions about the NBAR report.

He said: "The figures (for unauthorised absence) haven't actually improved in recent years, so it's quite obvious more needs to be done on this particular issue.

"It's important that the Welsh Assembly Government grapples with this issue, tackles this problem, as soon as possible."

The assembly government said the NBAR report's recommendations on training "remain a priority" and that behaviour and attendance issues are an integral part of all its major education initiatives.

Literacy is being addressed through the basic skills strategy, providing targeted funding for early intervention and support for children who fall behind.

Eye on Wales is broadcast on BBC Radio Wales at 1830 BST on Monday, 17 May.



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SEE ALSO
Primary age behaviour is targeted
15 May 08 |  Wales
'Step in early to curb truancy'
15 May 08 |  Wales

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