Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Pupil Absence in Autumn Term 2008

The Guardian’s report on truancy figures caught my eye given that we know that children that truant from school are more likely to smoke, drink and take drugs.

The Guardian says:

Truancy rates are rising, with children in England skipping almost 4.3m days of school last autumn, government figures published today show.

However, it’s worth noting that these figures include authorised absences, which appear to make up the bulk of the time away from school.  So for example illness accounts for 60% of the absences, and family holidays a further 9%.

On a more positive note persistent absences amongst secondary school pupils seem to be falling:

The proportion of pupils in secondary school who are at risk of becoming persistent absentees has fallen from 7.8% in the autumn term of 2006 to 7.3% in the autumn term of 2008.

The DCSF figures are available to download here.

Filed under: Truancy

Truancy up despite fines for parents

The Telegraph notes the rise in the use of fixed penalty fines to punish parents not able to get their children to school don’t appear to be having the desired effect. They also suggest that more draconian measures aren’t working either:

Record numbers of parents have also been hauled before the courts for failing to curb wayward children, with prosecutions soaring from 986 to 3,713 between 2005 and 2007. But despite the hard line, the number of school days lost because of unauthorised absence over the same period soared by two million to 11.8 million.

The disclosure – in figures obtained by the Lib Dems after a parliamentary question – will raise fresh doubts over the Government’s anti-truancy strategy.

The DCSF are quoted saying that attendance at school is improving, and that truancy figures are worse because heads are not accepting “weak excuses”.

The NUT’s acting General Secretary is quoted on their website saying:

“The Government needs to draw the obvious lessons from the latest truancy figures. There are no magic solutions to tackling core truancy. Schools do their best to deal with persistent truancy but they cannot, on their own, address deep-rooted social problems which lead to truancy.”

Truancy is, of course, a risk factor for children and young people in relation to their drug use.

Smoking Drinking and Drug Use among Young People In England in 2006 found:

  • Pupils who had experience of exclusion from school or playing truant were more likely to smoke regularly;
  • Pupils who had truanted were almost twice as likely to have drunk alcohol in the last seven days; and
  • Truancy and exclusion from school were both strongly linked to recent drug use

UpdateThe Guardian say that the government are suggesting the rise can be traced back to an increased number of days children were sick.

Filed under: Truancy,

Truancy rate ‘highest since 1997’

The BBC:

Truancy rates in England’s schools are at their highest since 1997, the latest figures show.An estimated 63,000 pupils truanted every day, equating to 1% of all school sessions missed without a valid reason.

This is also a rise of a quarter, or 0.21 of a percentage point, on comparable figures from last year which were 0.79%.

The government has written to local authorities urging them to keep up the pressure on persistent absenteeism.

I raise this as the evidence is that those who are out of school are at greater risk of harm from drugs and alcohol.

Here are the findings from Smoking, drinking and drug use amongst young people in England in 2006:

  • Pupils who reported that they had ever been excluded from school were more than twice as likely as those who had not to be regular smokers. A similar relationship existed between truancy and regular smoking.
  • Truancy was associated with recent drinking, but exclusion from school was not.
  • Pupils who had truanted or been excluded from school in the past were more likely to say they took drugs at least once a month (11%) than those who had not truanted or been excluded (1%).

See also:

  • The truth about truancy – Conor Ryan former Special Advisor to Tony Blair and David Blunkett discusses the figures and what works to reduce the numbers.  He says:

there are clear signs that a programme of targeted intervention first ordered by Tony Blair two years ago to tackle persistent truancy in the 400 schools with the worst problem is having a real effect, with cuts of 20% in persistent absenteeism in those schools over the course of last year. (Academies have seen significant cuts too)

Filed under: Truancy,

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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