Truancy patrols in shopping centres and parks

111 pupils stopped last week

 

Borough youth officer, Sgt Gordon Barlow, and schools liaison officer, PC Samm Postance, stop two secondary school pupils in Hammersmith Broadway bus station. The girls were on their way to a placement at Hammersmith & West London College, so were not truanting.

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Truancy patrols were out in the borough’s shopping centres and parks every day last week as part of a national sweep to improve attendance.

Education social workers and community attendance officers from the council joined local police and parks police in stopping 111 young people in the borough from 15-19 November.

Most had genuine reasons for not being in school and all primary school pupils were accompanied by a parent or carer. However, nine secondary pupils who were not in school could not give satisfactory reasons for their non-attendance. In all cases a phone call was made to their school by the council’s education social workers, who also sent letters to their parents. It is left to schools to decide on any follow-up action.

The truancy sweep covered the town centres of Hammersmith, Fulham and Shepherds Bush as well as the borough’s parks. Weekly truancy patrols take place across the borough all year during term time. Apart from stopping children and young people who are not in school, the patrols act as an effective deterrent to would-be truants.

Efforts by the council and schools to ensure more children attend regularly and on time are paying off as the borough achieved the most improved figures in England for primary pupils out of 150 local education authorities (LEAs).

Government statistics show an improvement in primary attendance in Hammersmith & Fulham of almost one percentage point – three times the national average. The figures cover the percentage of half days missed by primary school pupils in 2003-4, compared with 2002-3.
Secondary school attendance in Hammersmith & Fulham also improved by more than half a percentage point over the same period – putting us joint 36th in the country.

Initiatives which have helped to produce these improvements include
close monitoring of pupil attendance by primary and secondary schools, regular truancy patrols by the council and police, visits by education social workers to the homes of children who are not attending school as well as drawing up parenting contracts, running promotional campaigns and referring children to other agencies for support (e.g. counselling).

Promotional campaigns are carried out in particular schools and borough-wide and aim to make parents and children more aware of the need to ensure good attendance at school and the problems children who are not in school can encounter, including getting involved in crime or becoming the victims of crime.

Parents who fail to co-operate with the council in ensuring their children attend school also face court action, which can involve their child receiving an education supervision order – to ensure they attend school – or the parent getting a heavy fine. The court also has the power to jail parents.

Cllr David Williams, deputy for education, said: “It is so important that all children attend regularly and on time. In partnership with parents and the police,
as well as our regular truancy patrols, we have also set up breakfast clubs and ‘walking buses’ to help improve attendance and punctuality. Although some parents may collude in pupils’ non-attendance, most are upset to realise their children are missing out on their education and putting themselves at risk of getting into trouble.”

 

November 28, 2004