Is your child playing truant from school?

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At a glance

Truancy – what it is, how it can affect your child’s future and what to do if you think your child is skipping school.

What is truancy?

A teenage boy playing truant © 'govicinity @ Fotolia.com'

Truancy means missing school on a regular basis for no good reason. It is also sometimes called ‘unauthorised absence’.

By law, all children who are registered at school must attend regularly. Home-educated children do not have to attend school.

Truancy is a big problem, and it’s on the increase. The most recent figures, for 2009, show the truancy rate in England was up 4% on the previous year.

Children in special schools, and those on free school meals, are most likely to truant.

How it can impact on their future – and yours

Truancy matters because:

  • Children who skip school don’t do as well in tests, assessments and exams.
  • If your child doesn’t show up for lessons, their school record will suggest to future employers that they are unreliable.
  • Being out of school during school hours gives your child time to kill - and research has shown that this can lead to criminal or antisocial behaviour.
  • You, as a parent or guardian, are responsible for your child. Legally, you must ensure that your child attends school - and if they don’t, you could get a penalty notice (a fixed fine) or even face prosecution.

What to do if you think your child is playing truant

Taking an interest in your child’s school life is a very important way to avoid truancy. The more engaged you are as a parent in your child’s education, the more likely your child is to attend and enjoy school.

So always make time to talk to your child about how they’re getting on at school. Keep in touch with your child’s teacher and don’t miss parent-teacher evenings. Also, try to attend school events if you possibly can.

Don’t wait for niggles to become big problems before you address them with teachers. If you suspect your child of truancy, don’t turn a blind eye. And don’t cover up for your child or make excuses. Schools are now clamping down on absence. If you say that your son or daughter was ill, you’ll probably be asked for precise details about the illness (or possibly a note from your GP) to make sure their absence was genuine.

Talk to your child about what’s causing them to skip school. Some children truant because they’re being bullied, either at school or on the way there. If this turns out to be the issue for your child, then it is something that you and the school need to tackle.

Talk to your child’s teacher or the parent support adviser at school. They will probably suggest that you work together on a plan to track your child’s attendance - this could mean you staying in close contact with the school regarding your child’s appearance/non-appearance in the classroom.

Don’t be afraid of talking to school staff about your concerns. Schools and local authorities realise the importance of working with parents to ensure children attend school. They will try to give you and your child the support you need.

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