Kent County Council and Kent Police’s School Attendance Officers have resumed their joint anti-truancy operation, which had not been carried out in Kent for nearly 10 years.
The operation of regular truancy sweeps started again this month with the first day of the operation stopping 16 school-aged children in the Folkestone area during the school hours. Among them, seven children were with their parents when they were stopped. The reasons given for missing school included illness, exclusion and medical appointments.
One grandparent was challenged by officers as to why her granddaughter was shopping with her when the child’s mother had told staff the pupil had flu and was too ill to attend school.
A Year 12 pupil was found in the town centre after he was excluded from a local secondary school. The youngster was warned by the officers that by law an excluded student must not be in any public place during school hours. KCC is considering taking legal action against the parents for allowing him to be in the town centre while being excluded. For such an infringement, parents can be fined by the Local Authority.
A six-year-old girl was found with her mother, who explained the child had headlice and was therefore unable to attend school. The mother was advised by the officers that it is not necessary to keep a child off school for this reason. The Local Authority’s School Liaison Officer later also advised the school about this.
In the past three years, school attendance rate in Kent has improved with an overall primary attendance rate of 96% and secondary schools of 95%.
Matt Dunkley, Kent County Council’s Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education, said: “Maximum attendance is key to benefiting from the good teaching and learning opportunities provided by the schools. Government research indicates a significant negative link between overall absence and attainment, with every day missed associated with lower attainment outcomes.
“Pupils at Key Stage 2 (School Years 3 to 6) and Key Stage 4 (School Years 10 and 11) with no absence were found to be 1.6 times more likely to achieve level 4 or above, and 4.7 times more likely to achieve level 5 or above, than pupils who missed 15-20% of all sessions. We believe children’s good attendance record is integral to enabling children to fulfil their potential. KCC support schools’ efforts to improve pupils’ attendance.”
Sergeant Simon Drew from Kent Police added: “Children who miss school and frequent public places during school hours do not only miss out on educational opportunities, they are also at risk of being drawn into crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour.
“Kent Police has a shared interest with the Local Authority to reduce the number of school children missing education or being excluded from school.”