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Truancy rise sets back targets

The Government's crackdown on truanting pupils has had little impact as yet with unauthorised absence more or less unchanged in 19989.

This is disappointing news in the light of the Government's ambitious targets to reduce the rates by one-third by 2002.

Indeed, in more than 10 authorities the rate of unauthorised absence as measured by both the percentage of half-days missed, and the average number of half-days missed per absent pupil, has risen. Success in one authority seems to be countered by a deterioration in another.

Nevertheless, there has been some success in cutting the number of schools with the worst rates of abence. The number of schools where the percentage of half-days missed due to unauthorised absence exceeded 2 per cent, fell to 560 from 581 the previous year. Sadly, the number of schools where there was up to 0.1 per cent of days missed due to unauthorised absence also fell from 543 schools to 506.

There is evidence that schools with high levels of unauthorised absence also have high levels of authorised absence. Similarly, there is a strong correlation between absence and exam

performance, with low absence rates being associated with good results.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University.

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