Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

School Halves Truancy Rate with Ultimate Deterrent

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

School Halves Truancy Rate with Ultimate Deterrent

Article excerpt


FOR A teenager, it is the last word in what is definitely not cool.

Street credibility goes out of the window when your mother or father is brought in to spend the day sitting alongside you in class, to the great amusement of your friends.

That is the threat hanging over youngsters at an east London school where teachers have declared war on truancy. And it has worked.

Little Ilford School in Manor Park, Newham, is one of 50 around the country recognised today by the Government for reducing truancy, which ministers have pledged to cut by a third by 2002.

"Truancy-busting" schools are being rewarded with prizes of up to [pound]10,000 by Education Minister Jacqui Smith.

Teachers at Little Ilford school, a comprehensive for 11 to 16-year-olds, have taught very few parents this past year, which is testimony to the success of a strategy that has halved truancy in the past three years.

"We've had parents sitting in with their children two or three times in the past year," said head teacher Pam Belmour. "But the last time we had occasion to threaten it, in the case of a 15-year-old boy, it never actually happened.

"His mum came to school, and he was mortified because all his mates knew she was there. He begged us to send her away and promised he wouldn't miss any more classes. His mum agreed to give him another chance."

The threat of making an example of pupils in this way has, on most occasions, achieved the desired result.

"The last thing teenagers want to lose is credibility with their friends," said Mrs Belmour. "They find it so embarrassing. But that is the ultimate sanction. We have adopted a range of measures to improve attendance before it gets to that."

Attendance levels at the school have risen to more than 92 per cent, up from 86 per cent in 1994, when Little Ilford was declared a "failing" school, with truancy one of its key problems. …

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