Truancy study 'misread'
Archie McGlynn, chief inspector and head of the Inspectorate's Audit Unit, said the latest study by the Scottish Council for Research in Education clearly showed that truants were a matter of concern for secondaries.
The TES Scotland reported last week that five out of the seven secondaries in the study did not have a major problem, although a small group of persistent truants were discovered in each school.
Mr McGlynn countered: "It would be a major problem if two out of seven secondary schools were recording high levels of truancy. That would give us more than 100 secondaries in Scotland and that would give us cause for concern."
Previous studies in 1991 and 1994 revealed substantial patterns of self-reported pupil absence and pointed to wide variations between schools. Headteachers had indicated that 5 per cent of pupils were persistent truants.
Mr McGlynn said the "almost overwhelming" response by local authorities and schools to the Government's initiative on attendance and absence reinforced his argument. "Schools are not going to spend time talking about truancy if it is not a concern. They are realising this is an issue other schools are facing and they no longer feel they are alone," he said.
The latest research demonstrated a clear statistical link between attendance, absence and academic performance, Mr McGlynn said. "That link held across all secondaries for all kinds of absence, explained or unexplained."
But he conceded that other factors had to be taken into account. "Every researcher and chief inspector would say that," he said.
Mr McGlynn explained that the SCRE's study had not set out to monitor levels of absence but to look at the links between attendance and performance and to provide schools with a better understanding of why pupils took time off.
"It does give us a lot of information about why pupils truant and it tells us that teachers find the additional work caused by truancy frustrating," he said.