Jamie's School Sinners; Comprehensive Where TV Chef Waged War on Unhealthy Food Tops Truancy League

Article excerpt

Byline: DOMINIC HAYES

IT is the school made famous by Jamie Oliver's mission to improve children's food.

Kidbrooke School in Greenwich was seen by millions of viewers during the chef 's experiment to boost the quality of school meals in his TV series Jamie's School Dinners.

But the huge improvement in food wasn't enough to keep the pupils in attendance. Kidbrooke is now among 28 London schools - and 198 nationwide - on the Government's hitlist of truancy hotspots.

Between them, the 198 schools account for a fifth of absenteeism and they have been ordered to slash truancy rates by threatening parents with prosecutions.

The list has emerged after the Commons public accounts committee savaged the Government's failure to reduce truancy, despite spending nearly [pounds sterling]1billion on measures to improve attendance and behaviour.

Last year, 55,000 children were not in school on any one day, up from around 50,000 in 2004.

Greenwich has more schools on the list than any other borough in the capital, with four, including Kidbrooke and Crown Woods, the comprehensive with the highest truancy rate in London.

Kidbrooke headteacher Trisha Jaffe said: "Kidbrooke makes clear to pupils, parents and carers the importance of regular attendance and the vast majority of our pupils attend well.

"Overall, attendance rates have steadily improved since 2001-2. As with some other schools, there is a small minority of pupils who persistently fail to attend, with parental agreement. We will continue to work with the council to address this issue."

Crown Woods headteacher Michael Murphy said truancy was the most "intractable" of all problems faced by schools.

Mr Murphy, who became the first state school head on a six-figure salary when he took over five years ago, said: "What we are dealing with is parental collusion with students with poor attendance. …