30 years ago

8th July 2005 at 01:00
Truancy was described as one of the most worrying features of the whole year by Mr Henry Philip, headmaster of Liberton High, Edinburgh, in his annual report at the school's prizegiving ceremony (TESS, July 11, 1975).

Schools were frequently criticised, he said, for the large numbers of pupils who left school seemingly illiterate and innumerate. Writers like those who compiled the Black Paper on education blamed such things as comprehensive education or new-fangled ideas in education.

But he believed it was irregular attendance at school, going back in many cases to the infant department, that caused illiteracy and innumeracy. It was not possible for teachers to provide what these children needed if they would not attend school and if their parents would not send them.

It was highly questionable in economic terms for governments to try to extend education into nursery classes and into the fourth year of the secondary school when they did not ensure that children took advantage of what was already there.

Headmasters were fighting against a flood of truancy, and it was a losing battle. The police, too, were fighting a losing battle because truants inevitably turned to petty crime - pilfering and house-breaking. As far as he could see, the authorities were still not prepared to believe that this was one of our biggest social evils.

School councils would be unable to cope with the problem unless they were given adequate facilities and powers to deal, not only with the truants, but also with their parents and with seemingly reputable firms which were prepared to cash in on cheap labour, illegally employed, for which they were not prepared to pay insurance, he said.

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