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Permit scheme cuts truancy

TRUANCY at one of the country's largest schools has been slashed by nearly 10 per cent thanks to a project backed by police, parents and shopkeepers.

None of the 1,700 pupils of New College, Leicester, can leave its grounds during the day without being issued with a pass.

Neighbouring shopkeepers, from high street chains, such as Boots, to local bakers, refuse to serve pupils during school hours unless they can produce the pass.

And police officers are able to return suspected truants if they do not have the pass. Richard Styles, the school's beat bobby, said the scheme was proving a great success with 20 pass-less pupils being taken straight back to school.

Since the measure was introduced in September attendance levels have risen by nearly 0 per cent, close to the Government's target of 90 per cent.

The college has education welfare officers on site who respond quickly to absences, and work closely with both parents and staff, to find ways of ensuring the pupils remain in school.

A team of non-teaching staff lets parents know if their children are not in school, and to find out if they have a valid excuse. A reward system is also in place for attendance and punctuality.

Each year, at least one million children - around 15 per cent of all pupils - play truant, and the equivalent of eight million school days are lost, according to the Department for Education and Employment.

The Government aims to reduce unauthorised absence rates by a third by 2002.

Roger Bushby

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