Numbers game

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Your report of a 24 per cent increase in unauthorised absence since 1997 ("Truancy worse under Labour", TES, January 14) is a clear example of how statistics can so easily be misunderstood.

Are there really an extra quarter of a million children wandering our streets rather than in school, or is it that schools no longer tolerate questionable excuses (especially holidays in term) given for absence?

Much work has been done to reduce absence with some success and a reduction in sessions lost.

There is much still to do but concentrating on a questionable "truancy" measure can miss the point.

A child not in school will make insufficient progress. That is true whatever the cause of the absence. The child will be disadvantaged whether the reason is truancy, illness, a need to care for family members or any other reason.

Eddie Needham Development officer The Extended Schools Support Service ContinYou Unit C1 Grovelands Estate, Coventry

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