22 March 2001

Q15 Alison Halford:

What actions has the Minister taken to combat the rise in truancy in schools in Wales? (OAQ10449)

Jane Davidson:

Under ‘Betterwales.com’ we have set targets of reducing unauthorised absences from school by one third by 2004. That target is supported by funding from the grants for education support and training programme, and £3 million was allocated to activity 19, school attendance and behaviour, in 2000-01. Within an overall increase in GEST resources, £9.86 million has been made available for tackling social disadvantage for 2001-02. It will be for local authorities to decide how much of this is spent on school attendance and behaviour difficulties. Local education authorities have been invited to submit bids that demonstrate working through the Education Welfare Service in promoting school-based action to tackle attendance and behaviour difficulties, including truancy.

Guidance in tackling the issues surrounding school disaffection has been brought together in National Assembly Circular 3/99, ‘Pupil Support and Social Inclusion’. The circular contains practical advice for schools and LEAs on preventative actions aimed at reducing truancy. Schools are asked to concentrate on early intervention, including first day contact with parents and establishing good working relationships with the Education Welfare Service and the police. The Assembly is also supporting the efforts of LEAs, which are required to set out local actions that are consistent with the target of reducing truancy in their educational strategic plans.

When pupils miss school, new powers under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 allow the police to return truants found in public places to school or to an area designated by the local education authority. In exercising those powers, the police are required to make a local truancy order, and such truancy sweeps have since taken place across Wales. In addition, new provisions in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 have increased the fine on parents from a maximum of £1,000 to £2,500, or imprisonment of up to three months, for a parent whose child does not attend school regularly. Nine schools in Wales have also received money from the Home Office crime reduction programme for pilot projects to combat truancy, with the aim of reducing juvenile crime.

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