Levels of truancy among primary pupils in Scotland may be higher than anticipated, latest research on absence and attainment has revealed.
The findings, based upon a study of pupils in a small number of unnamed schools on behalf of The Scottish Council for Research in Education, have surprised teachers in the primary sector where truancy is regarded as uncommon.
But data collated from pupils and teachers in seven secondary and seven primary schools suggests truancy may be more prevalent following an investigation into the statistical relationship between pupil attendance, truancy and performance and reasons why pupils skipped school.
The team of researchers found 8 per cent of P4 (eight-year-old) and 15 per cent of P7 (11-year-old) primary pupils sometimes avoided going to school by claiming they were ill.
However primary heads and class teachers involved in the study said parents tended to be the major reason behind non-attendance - keeping their children at home often as a result of practical problems involving child care or finance. If the absence was arranged by the parent then their children would be with them, staff believed.
A minority of heads said economic hardship could make some parents send their pupils to school to receive free school meals. Staff in participating schools also believed pupils would truant because they were unhappy, because of peer group pressure, or out of pure dislike for school.
Primary children were asked to give hypothetical reasons which would make them truant and what they would do with their time off school. This revealed their thoughts about skipping school and gave some indication as to whether they had truanted in the past.
Their answers revealed how most pupils would potentially truant if they were bored with school or disliked it - 43 P4 and 53 P7 children claimed they could skip school for these reasons alone.
A further 25 P4 pupils said they could stay off if they were too tired, 27 P7 pupils suggested they would do so as a result of bullying. Other suggested reasons behind not going to school included, disliking the teacher and being given too much work.
In another attempt to uncover motives for truancy pupils were given six mini-stories in which a fictional child had the chance to play truant and asked to choose from a range of options. Nearly three-quarters of pupils in both year groups said they would stay off school to help parents or carers.
Other reasons included not liking the teacher, peer pressure, concern about schoolwork, incomplete homework and bullying.
The latest study also examined what the hypothetical truants would do with their time. The majority of P4 pupils (59 out of 76) and P7 pupils (40 out of 76) said they would play with toys or computers at home while 50 per cent of the P4 and 58 per cent of the P7 pupils said they would spend their day alone.
Almost one in three P7 pupils said they would watch TV or listen to music and almost one in four would "wander about outside".
The majority of children in both groups told researchers they knew their parents would be angry and would disapprove of their missing school without a good reason.