Worrying increase in truancy rates

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MORE than 60 pupils are skipping school without permission every single day in Hartlepool.

On a typical school day in the town, 41 primary school children and a staggering 81 secondary school students are missing half days without permission, according to new figures.

The alarming statistics released yesterday from the Department for Education cover the Autumn term last year.

Worryingly, the figures show a marked increase from the same period in 2009.

A total of 122 primary and secondary school students were skipping half a day of lessons throughout the term in Hartlepool last year - compared to 108 in 2009.

The number of secondary school pupils skipping lessons in Hartlepool is above the North-East and national average.

Students in the town missed 1.41 per cent of half-days throughout the full term without permission from staff.

This was above the regional and nationwide averages of 1.36 per cent and 1.37 per cent respectively.

Despite a number of measures introduced in schools, headteachers in the town admit that truancy is still a problem.

Andrew Jordon, deputy headteacher at Dyke House Sports and Technology College, in Mapleton Road, Hartlepool, said students who miss class without permission are required to catch up in lessons on evenings or at weekends.

Mr Jordon said: “It’s a very small percentage of students who are persistent offenders, but it is something we look at every day.

“We have managed to drive the number of truants down in this school, but we have attendance officers who follow up any unauthorised absences.

“For those who do skip lessons it reflects directly on their exam results and they leave school having not achieved what they should have done.”

The latest figures also show that primary school pupils in Hartlepool missed 0.65 per cent of half days without staff authorisation.

Despite more than 40 primary school pupils not attending school every day, this figure is below the regional and national averages of 0.68 per cent and 0.75 per cent respectively.

Marian Fairley, headteacher at Lynnfield Primary School, in Grosvenor Street, Hartlepool, said staff at the school have to cope with unauthorised absences every day.

An attendance officer at the school checks the register every morning and calls the parents of any children who haven’t turned in.

If there is no response the officer then goes round to the house of the child.

Mrs Fairley said: “We obviously take unauthorised absences very seriously.

“It is important for parents to realise just how important it is for their children to be in school.

“If they aren’t here we can’t teach them, and the purpose of being in school is continuous learning.

“We do have cases of unauthorised absence every day.”

The number of authorised absences in the town actually fell from 2009-2010.

The figures show 665 pupils missed sessions with permission from school staff in the Autumn term two years ago compared to 625 who missed half days in the same period last year.

Jackie Webb, Hartlepool Borough Council’s inclusion officer for attendance, said: “We work closely with schools and families to promote and improve attendance.

“It’s all about ensuring parents get their children into school.

“They only get one shot at education.

“We won’t tolerate parents who’s children aren’t attending school and if needs be we will prosecute.”