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Sunderland - Truants targeted with vouchers

Pupils in Sunderland are being rewarded with "special prizes" for coming to school, with shopping vouchers for parents who manage to stop their children playing truant.

Sunderland Council has not revealed exactly what is on offer in this month's "Don't miss school, don't miss out campaign".

Previous drives to improve attendance in the city have featured rewards in the form of helicopter rides and Nintendo games consoles.

All primary pupils have been targeted in this month's scheme and are receiving "fun attendance-record cards" to keep track of how many days they come to school.

At the end of the campaign the school with the best attendance will receive a visit from Spike, the city's attendance mascot, with his "fantastic tombola prize draw".

Parents of children with full attendance records for the whole month will be entered in another prize draw for shopping vouchers.

The council says previous campaigns have helped it to increase the proportion of primary schools meeting Government attendance guidelines from 45 per cent in 2002 to the current figure of 79.5 per cent.

In the past, similar schemes have been criticised for "bribing" pupils to come to school.

But Julia Belshaw, Barnes Infant School head, said: "Campaigns like 'Don't miss school, don't miss out' are a brilliant way to encourage children and remind parents of the need for children to attend school regularly.

"It helps families appreciate that supporting their child and helping them attend school should be a top priority." WS.

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