How hard is it to stop truancy?

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Image caption,
Last autumn, 60,700 primary and secondary pupils missed classes

More children than ever before are skipping school with 60,000 playing truant every day in Britain.

In 2009, truancy rates have hit an 11-year high despite the government spending more than a billion pounds to keep kids in class.

Lucy is 14 and says she bunks off more than once a week from her school in Essex.

She says she'd rather be anywhere else than in class.

"Out of the year-and-a-half I've been here, I think I've only done half of that. So, seven months," she said.

"I've got 57% attendance, which is terrible for a Year 10.

"I like to go to the park, smoke a fag, play a bit of football, sit down, chill out, maybe have a drink. Anything. Anything that comes across to me as a laugh, as a joke."

Jail sentence

The most common reasons given for not turning up to school are sickness and family holidays, according to data from the government.

Beatbullying also say thousands of pupils stay away from school every day because of bullying. That's a third of all truancies.

Chris Melville is the attendance officer at Shoeburyness High School in Essex.

She goes out every morning to find children who regularly don't turn up to class and says they're often embarrassed when teachers turn up at their homes.

She said: "It's quite amusing when you go up to their bedrooms and they're asleep, they open their eyes and see me standing there, it's quite a bit of a shock for them.

"That actually works because they're a bit embarrassed when they come in later in the day to know that I've seen them in their superman pyjamas."

In recent years in England, Scotland and Wales, the government has started locking up parents for up to three months if their kids bunk off.

On average one parent is now sent to prison every fortnight.

In Northern Ireland, parents are fined £1,000 if their children persistently miss school.

Targeting parents

Rose Connor from Northampton was jailed because her teenage son kept missing lessons. At the time she was seven months pregnant.

"I used to have to drag him out of bed, physically dress him and drag him to the car and he used to just hit me all the way there," she said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Truancy has hit an 11-year high despite government spending

"We started delivering him to school, so we'd leave him at the desk at school and then he'd run out as soon as we left.

"They didn't believe I'd done everything in my power to get him to school and sent me to prison."

Parents in England, Wales and Scotland also face parenting orders, penalty fines, parenting classes as well as prosecution.

The government's spent billions of pounds tackling truancy and insists fewer parents are now letting their children skip school.

Schools minister Vernon Coaker said: "Considerable progress has been made in ensuring that we tackle not just unauthorised absence but all form of absence.

"That doesn't mean that we're complacent about it. We know there's more that needs to be done and we'll do it.

"It's not about victimising parents who try to cooperate. It is about saying we're not going to have parents who simply don't accept their responsibilities."

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