Where parents lay blame for truancy

20th February 1998 at 00:00
Parents believe children misbehave and play truant because they are bored and the national curriculum is failing to address their needs, a new study claims.

They also blame their own shortcomings as parents, as well as peer pressure and a breakdown in pupil-teacher relationships for truancy and disaffection.

The report, from the National Foundation for Educational Research, found that parents pinpointed the national curriculum as a culprit in poor classroom behaviour and non-attendance.

Parents believed it was not meeting children's needs and interests, particularly those who have special needs and learning difficulties.

The report, the last of a four-part series called School Attendance, Truancy and Exclusion, by Kay Kinder and Anne Wilkin, found that complex factors determined the causes of disaffection, and that children needed a combination of support to overcome their difficulties.

Schools which employed a variety of approaches to dealing with the problem achieved the best results in improving motivation.

Among the most effective were computer registration systems monitoring pupil attendance and enabled teachers to detect patterns of behaviour and absence, and made it more difficult for pupils to truant.

Rewards and sanctions were also effective because they encouraged and reinforced school rules on behaviour and attendance, although some children did not value being seen publicly to receive acclaim.

One in eight believed that the giving of prizes and incentives was inappropriate and threw them away.

The authors also found that the prospect of punishment for truancy only worked for those pupils who feared their attendance record would affect their job prospects; others "beat the system" by intercepting letters home, forging signatures and getting their friends to ring the school.

Approaches which provide challenges and offer individual support to pupils were the most effective means of dealing with disaffection.

Conversely, those with a strong reprisal element such as withdrawal units, exclusion and suspensions tended not to address the problem.

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