Primary Truancy Rates Soar by 400pc; Families' Social Problems 'To Blame'

Article excerpt

Byline: VIC RODRICK

THE truancy rate in Scottish primary schools has risen more than fourfold in the past decade.

Shock figures obtained by the Scottish Mail on Sunday showed the number of unauthorised absences - counted as half days - were up from 117,000 in 1994-95 to 533,000 in 2001-02.

A further 32,000 half days were lost as a result of pupils being excluded because of disruptive behaviour.

In secondary schools the absence figure jumped from 974,000 to 1,573,000 and exclusions were 262,000.

Jim Smith, West of Scotland committee member of the Scottish Headteachers' Association, believes the absences are rooted in poverty.

He said: 'Families at my school and others with poor attendance records have incredible social problems and there's a drastic lack of social workers.

'Some of the children's situations are off the wall. More and more families have been affected by drugs and the problem is very much on the increase.

'I don't know what schools can do about it, apart from trying to educate people. But children are coming from desperate circumstances and social work departments are stretched beyond breaking point.' The Scottish Executive has funded initiatives to make school more engaging for disaffected pupils.

Controversially, Ministers also reclassified holidays taken in term time as truancy after learning that ' authorised absences' for holiday breaks had risen 13-fold in primaries and six-fold in secondaries. …