Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Persistent truancy is falling - but not fast enough

The headline figure for 'unauthorised absence' is at its highest level, even if the increase is marginal. But since a government clampdown on term-time holidays, with heads refusing to back bargain autumn breaks to Spain, that number is not really the one that matters. More significant is the figure for 'persistent truancy': these are the hard-core truants, the ones who are really missing out by not being at school. And the good news is that these figures are starting to fall significantly. This is where we started to focus resources four years ago, on schools with significant problems of persistent truancy, and the signs are that it is beginning to work.

But the fall in those missing at least one day a week from 273,000 to 241,000 pupils, a drop of over 10%, though good news, is not yet good enough. That's 241,000 pupils still missing some 40 days a year of lesons or more. There must be a singular focus on that group, with government resources transferred from pointless lectures about family holidays (as well, perhaps, as some of the money spent in bureaucratic Every Child Matters committees) and a relentless implementation of what successful schools have already done.

I notice that shadow schools spokesman Nick Gibb is criticising the government for the truancy figures: if he is serious about addressing the problem, he must recognise that this is one area where Government can make a difference with the right focus and the right target. The evidence is finally there of what works. It needs to be followed up.

No comments: