Bringing them back into class;Bournemouth 99;Labour Party Conference

1st October 1999 at 01:00

WHEN pupils at Firth Park School in Sheffield fail to turn up for lessons, headteacher Mo Laycock has a good idea where to find them.

If they're not at home there's a good chance they are being used as child labour in a factory or on a buildings site around Brightside - David Blunkett's constituency.

Mrs Laycock said: "I have been known just to turn up on a building site and say 'hey that person's too young to be working here. He's one of my pupils'.

"But most of these children aren't working. Some parents have low aspirations. I do home visits and I once found a girl doing homework with her work on her knee in the bathroom because there was nowhere else in the house where there weren't any other siblings."

The school provides incentives for those with good attendance records, including certificates, McDonalds burgers and trips to Alton Towers theme park.

Sheffield magistrates imposes fines as low as pound;10 on parents of non-attending children but her novel approach appears to be working. Average attendance at the school has increased from 78 per cent to 86 per cent in the past four years.

Steve Hook

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