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Truants 'want respect'

Bad teacher-pupil relationships can be a major cause of truancy, according to a survey of Bristol schoolchildren.

The study, conducted by John Dwyfor Davies and John Lee of Bristol university, suggested that children see family problems and boredom with work as significantly less important factors.

In interviews with 13 pupils and their parents, truants said they did not feel "dignified or respected" by staff. In many cases they were backed up by parents, who described schools as "arrogant" and uncommunicative.

"It's really very obvious," said Professor Davies. "For many youngsters, good relationships in school can form some kind of positive alternative to a negative home environment, but when the reverse is true, it's fight or flight."

Chris Gravell, policy officer at the Advisory Centre for Education, said:

"You need someone who is there for a child, a supportive atmosphere.

Teachers have to like the children. It's about an atmosphere of mutual respect."

However, a spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: "Listening to pupils' excuses doesn't deal with the reasons for truancy. Often parents collude with children's absence, taking them out to try new shoes, or using them as cheap labour in shops and market stalls.

"Ensuring that children attend school is the responsibility of parents. It is the responsibility of teachers to inspire and motivate them when they are there."

Absenteeism rose in 20045, despite the Government spending pound;885 million to tackle it. Every day 55,000 pupils are out of school.

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