Holiday absence more of problem than school truancy says Sidmouth head

PUBLISHED: 09:42 16 March 2009 | UPDATED: 08:45 18 June 2010

TRUANCY is not a problem at Sidmouth College, says its principal Jeremy Roberts, after news that Devon schools are celebrating a drop in truancy numbers.

TRUANCY is not a problem at Sidmouth College, says its principal Jeremy Roberts, after news that Devon schools are celebrating a drop in truancy numbers.

He is more concerned at the absence of students through taking family holidays during term time, and wants to cut back on this.

He said: "We don't have a huge problem with truancy, attendance is very good indeed.

"The vast majority of young people are committed to learning and if there is a problem most parents are willing to be involved."

However the college, like many other schools, has parents wanting authorisation to take children out of class for holidays.

"We are trying to make sure we are tightening up on that and say to people we can't authorise absence unless attendance is over 95 percent," said Mr Roberts.

"So many people earn a living in trades and businesses connected with the holiday trade some families have little option other than during term time to take a holiday.

"It does have an impact on pupils' learning at certain times in their school career, especially preparing for GCSE or A levels or at the introduction of a new course.

"If they miss some of these sessions often they can't catch up. We want to make sure young people have the very best chance of being successful.

"We have a lot of support from parents over this. There are always exceptional circumstances, such as a family wedding in Australia."

The latest Devon-wide figures for 2007/8 show attendance in primary and secondary schools is up with truancy cut from 1.26 percent to 1.12 percent. Persistent absence has also been cut.

Devon secondary schools use computerised registration monitoring systems that enable staff to contact families immediately when pupils are absent without authorisation.

Devon County Council's education welfare service works closely with schools, students and their families to boost attendance.

Councillor John Smith, DCC's deputy leader and executive councillor for children's services said: "If children are not in school then we cannot teach them and they cannot enhance their chances of having a fulfilling life."

He said they were working in partnership with schools to improve attendance and was delighted to see this was having an effect.

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