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On the day that truancy figures reveal fewer kids in Gloucestershire are skipping school, Heart has found that 78 parents in Gloucestershire have been prosecuted for their child's truancy.
Headteacher of Tewkesbury School, John Reilly, says this reflects a more “determined” approach from education authorities rather than bad pupil behaviour.
During 2008/2009 87 parents were prosecuted for failing to ensure regular school attendance, but Mr Reilly said the problem is no worse than ten years ago.
He said authorities are working hard with schools and parents to keep truancy figures in the area as low as possible.
The percentage of half days missed due to overall absence in Gloucestershire’s secondary schools has decreased by 0.11% between 2007/2008 and 2008/2009. The percentage of persistent absentees in Gloucestershire’s secondary schools has also decreased by 0.4%.
A persistent absentee is defined as having 64 or more sessions of absence - authorised and unauthorised - during the year.
The highest percentage of persistent absentees in secondary schools was found in Gloucester (4.6%), compared to the Forest of Dean, which had the lowest percentage of persistent absentees (3.4%).
Gloucester also had the highest percentage of persistent absentees in primary schools (2.3%) compared to in Stroud (0.7%).
In Gloucestershire’s primary schools the percentage of half days missed for unauthorised absence was 0.43% compared to a national average of 0.64%. Overall absence was 4.85% compared to a national average of 5.30%, and the percentage of persistent absentees was 1.4% compared to a national average of 1.5%.
In Gloucestershire’s secondary schools the percentage of half days missed for unauthorised absence was 0.77% compared to a national average of 1.46%. Overall absence was 5.73% compared to a national average of 7.21% and the percentage of persistent absentees was 2.7% compared to a national average of 4.9%.
A spokesperson for Gloucestershire Council said:
“The Education Welfare Service continues to focus on ensuring regular school attendance and parental responsibility for this. We work closely with schools and families.
“Prosecuting a parent is always a last resort when there has been no co-operation or willingness to change.”
The Government have set a target to reduce absence rates so no local authority will have more than five per cent of its secondary school pupils as persistent absentees by 2011.
The overall absence rate in primary, secondary and special schools, city technology colleges and academies in England during the 2008/2009 school year is now 6.27% compared to 6.29% in 2007/2008. The persistent absence rate has decreased from 3.6% in 2007/2008 to 3.3% in 2008/2009.
Over 1,300 UK schools use the parent notification system ‘Truancy Call’, which allows staff to call, text or email a parent when their child is absent.