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Caught short by the new session

Schools, mostly, went back this week - to the usual cacophony. Pupils are being short-changed in exams (see above) and girls are yet again shortening their skirts too much. But perhaps the least welcome news about girls is that they are more likely to truant than boys as they get older. This finding from the Edinburgh University studies on youth transitions and crime begs as many questions as it answers, as the report itself acknowledges. Previous studies have not found such a difference: the 1992 Scottish School Leavers' Survey, for example.

Perhaps there is a clue here: the latter covered a wide range of pupils, while this week's report focused on the "difficult years" of S1-S3. At a time when all the evidence points to girls surging academically and in career terms, perhaps we have taken our eye off the ball which suggests that some girls may be no different from boys. They can be bored by school and they may have impulsive and risk-taking personalities which the Edinburgh University report speculates may lead them to truant.

This is none the less potentially significant, not least because of the political and educational capital being expended on the drive to boost the two As - attendance and attainment. For once, the traditional researchers'

cry should be heeded: this demands more research.

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