Laundry excuse won't wash

25th June 2004 at 01:00
"To whom it may concern. Johnny won't be coming to school today. His clothes aren't dry."

Astonishingly, this incredible tale is among real excuses offered by parents as a reason for children's absence.

Truancy Call, the automated system used by more than 350 UK schools, bombards parents with texts, emails and phone calls when a child fails to show up for school. This often prompts outlandish responses from those keen to justify their child's misdemeanours.

At a primary in Enfield, north London, the deputy head said: "One mother came in clutching a plastic bag with six black bugs in. She said her daughter had been bitten by them, and so would not be coming in. She wanted us to go round and kill the bugs."

Tales of canine consumption of homework may be old hat but another mother tried to prove there is life in the old dog excuse yet: she told the school her absent daughter was bathing the dog.

The deputy said: "We had another call saying a family's car had been stolen - and they had to go to Cornwall with police to get it back."

Alongside bizarre excuses, there are also sad ones. One girl failed to appear because she had broken her glasses, and was sharing with her mother.

That day was the mother's turn to wear them.

Nonetheless, unauthorised absence at the Enfield primary has fallen from 1.9 to 0.9 per cent since Truancy Call arrived in October. And, at Lealands high, in Luton, unauthorised absence fell from 2 per cent in 20012, when Truancy Call was installed, to 0.1 per cent the following year.

Absence from school seems to have no impact on creativity. Two pupils claimed that they were unable to go to school, because their trousers had been ripped, compelling them to spend the day shopping for new ones.

Debbie Cook, school attendance co-ordinator, said: "A mother rang to say her son was not in, because she had put his clothes in the wash, and they were still wet.

"And, in February, one of the pupils told the others that school was closed, because it was snowing. It's naughty, but it's just what we would have done at their age."

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