15,000 Are off School Every Day; FIGURES SHOW LONDON HAS WORST TRUANCY RECORD IN THE COUNTRY

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Byline: DOMINIC HAYES

INNER LONDON has the worst truancy rate in England, government figures reveal today.

On any given day, up to 15,000 of London's one million primary and secondary school pupils are missing from lessons.

They are either playing truant or their parents have taken them out without permission.

A typical child absent without permission misses a week and a half of lessons in a year.

But in Greenwich, pupils average 11 and a half days off a year, while in Southwark, the average is 10 and half days.

The shocking figures emerged as the National Audit Office warned that Labour has failed to cut truancy despite spending [pounds sterling]885 million on improving school attendance since Tony Blair took power in 1997. NAO chief Sir John Bourn said: "The rate of absence from schools in England has proved difficult to reduce."

Truancy rates have actually worsened in England and the Government missed its target of reducing them by 10 per cent by 2004.

However, in London, shopping-centre sweeps by police and the prosecution of parents has started to have an effect - truancy for inner London secondary schools went down from 1. …