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Last Updated: Wednesday October 22 2008 15:12 GMT

Maddy goes on truancy patrol!

Maddy with truancy officer Stevie

There's been an increase in the number of primary school pupils skipping lessons in England.

Teachers are being told to get tougher on kids who miss school without permission, even if it's for holidays or appointments.

Some areas already organise special patrols to check the streets for truants.

Maddy went to investigate in Camden, North London...

"We piled into the special Truancy Patrol van at around 9.30am. It's a minibus owned by the police, but once a week they stick huge green stickers on it to show the patrol gang are on board and on the the look out for kids!

The team wear bright blue jackets so everyone in the area knows who they are.

It's not half term for most pupils in this part of north London at the moment, so they should all be at school. But the Truancy Patrol were confident we'd find some who weren't...

Unexpected spots

Every week they check nine miles of park, shops and streets, along with a police officer.

Truant officer Stevie
Truancy officer Stevie chats to kids to find out why they're not at school
They told us there are certain places kids always hang out during the day, but sometimes you spot them in really unexpected spots too.

Then you have to jump out of the van as quickly as you can to go and talk to them, and find out why they aren't in class!

The Truancy Patrol say some children bunk off school because they're not interested in learning. But others don't show up because they are being bullied, or even because their parents want them to stay at home.

The team make sure they find out what the reason is. They usually talk to the child, their mum or dad and their teachers. If the pupil is unhappy at school then they should get some help to improve things.

Watch out!

Often kids they spot on the streets do have a good reason for being there, for example they are on their way to a dentist or opticians appointment. But pupils in this area have to carry a note round with them to prove that's why they are off during school hours. If they don't they get taken back to class!

Someone holding a burger
Some kids are spotted in shops or burger bars
We spotted one boy browsing through some new video games in a shop on the high street. He was wearing his uniform so the patrol team knew which school to call to let them know! We drove him there in the van!

Another girl was caught buying a burger in a fast food restaurant, but she was with her mum who told us they were just on their way to the doctors.

Since the Truancy Patrol started in this area, the number of kids skipping lessons has gone down. The people behind it want more parts of the UK to introduce similar schemes.

For now though, it's time to take down the green stickers and head back to the office to do some paperwork! But if you live in north London, watch out - they'll be back on the streets next week!"