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Government to crackdown on primary truancy

Primary schools have been singled out as the key to breaking the cycle of truancy that some students fall into in their teens.

Primary schools are the place to start to try and cut truancy rates

Primary schools have been singled out as the key to breaking the cycle of truancy that some students fall into in their teens.

Charlie Taylor, the government’s expert advisor on behaviour, has also called for an overhaul of the fines system for truants’ parents and suggested that those who refuse to pay should have their child benefit cut.

Almost 400,000 children currently miss 15% or more school days a year and are accordingly classified as persistently absent by the government. Of these, 133,500 are state primary pupils and 245,500 are secondary students with a handful coming from special schools.

Parents were issued with 32,641 penalty notices by schools and local authorities in 2010/11, up from 25,657 the previous year. Of those issued, 7,902 went unpaid while 5,727 were withdrawn.

Currently, local authorities have to withdraw penalty notices if they remain unpaid after 42 days and instead seek redress through the courts. However, the government admits that many authorities see court action as a “long-winded process that achieves very little”.

Education minister Michael Gove, who has extended Mr Taylor’s appointment as his behaviour advisor for another year, said a “fundamental change in approach” was needed.

He added: “Improving the attendance of younger children at primary school will reduce the number who develop truancy problems when they are older.”

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