Tackling truants

25th May 2001 at 01:00
Queen Mary school, aintree. she is one of 170 learning mentors funded in Liverpool by Excellence in Cities cash

My job is about building confidence and self-esteem. We do a lot of work to tackle non-attendance and we try to get children interested in school again.

There's one lad in school whose attendance was 17 per cent, but is now between 85 and 90 per cent, because we managed to get him engaged in things. For a long time he had no friends, but now he has got a peer group and he really enjoys coming into school and taking part. We have some children who just can't manage a full day in school, so we organise a timetable and gradually ease them back in. When this particular child first came back he worked from 9am to about noon, but now he's back on a full day. I think he'll do five GCSEs, so he's doing really well.

The children know us on first-name terms, so it's quite informal. We ofer the children lunchtime activities and have a range of programmes for them to get involved in, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

One of the biggest problems is working with other services. For example, we worked with one girl last year who was in residential care and needed a lot of specialist input from school, from learning mentors, from social services and others. I think it's difficult for all those people to be working on the same agenda and to get the right people together at the right time so that her needs are being met.

Of course, it can be stressful, especially where there might be a background where there's no support; where the young person might be the main carer in the family, for example. You can understand why some children are angry and why, if they're home cooking the tea for the family, then reading Shakespeare might not be the first thing on their minds.

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