Truancy patrol hits the streets

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Children skiving off school in Bedford borough beware, because the council’s truancy patrol is coming to get you.

As last year came to a close, education welfare officers stopped a total of 23 children in the town centre or at the Interchange Retail Park, in Kempston.

These figures show a reduction compared to 2011, in which 29 pupils were found not to be in school on a similar patrol.

Councellor David Sawyer, portfolio holder for education at Bedford Borough Council, said: “Our education welfare officers stopped one parent with their young child, who gave the reason that her child was too unwell to go to school, yet not too unwell to go shopping.

“This is clearly unacceptable. Everyone should respect a young person’s right to receive an education, and we will do all we can to ensure this message is carried loud and clear across our community.”

If an unaccompanied child who should be in school is stopped, then the truancy patrol has the power to move the child to a place of safety, probably their school.

Richard Denton, Bedfordshire Police children and young people development officer and schools coordinator, said: “Truancy can often lead to further issues in a community, at worst resulting in young people becoming involved in crime either as a victim or an offender. This is something that we really want to avoid.”

If a pupil is found to be away from school, the education welfare officer contacts the school and the reasons for not attending can be discussed.

Further monitoring of pupils’ attendance may be necessary in the following weeks by the school attendance officer and their education welfare officer.