Pilot scheme to tackle truancy in Bedfordshire schools has 'really impressive' results so far says police and crime commissioner

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7 Bedfordshire schools have signed up

Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner’s truancy pilot has not targeted children with special educational needs and disability – and has had some “really impressive” outcomes, a meeting heard.

The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel (Tuesday, October 11) heard that there are seven schools across the county taking part in the Persistent Absenteeism Pilot the PCC set up earlier this year.

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The PCC, Festus Akinbusoye, said: “We have quite a broad spectrum of schools [taking part].

Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner Festus Akinbusoye speaks at the meetingBedfordshire police and crime commissioner Festus Akinbusoye speaks at the meeting
Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner Festus Akinbusoye speaks at the meeting

“There have been some really, really, impressive outcomes so far. Some were not going to school at all and they are now, one [pupil] is now on an apprenticeship, and one is now engaging with the services, which they were not doing before.

“There were some issues with parental engagement that’s been dealt with thanks to the excellent work of our Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) and the youth intervention specialist in that team.

“As far as I am aware, there are no children with special education needs involved in this.

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“I have to reiterate that, despite the push-back and the somewhat unfortunate comments by some people who probably should know better, there was no plan whatsoever to target children with learning difficulties who need support.

“The whole idea of this is to support families who are struggling to help their kids get back into school and to support schools who are doing a fantastic Job in trying to get kids into schools,” he said.

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The schools that have signed up are: All Saints Academy in Dunstable, Samuel Whitbread Academy in Clifton, Academy of Central Bedfordshire – which has sites in Houghton Regis and Stotfold, Kempston Challenger Academy, Bedford Academy and Lea Manor High School and Stockwood Park Academy in Luton.

Councillor Gareth Mackey (Central Bedfordshire) told the PCC that he fully supports the project.

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“Although you may have been burnt a little bit on the SEND issue, I would ask that you are not discouraged from tackling this issue,” he said.

“I think there is a significant crossover, and yes it needs to be done in a framework. Yes, it needs to be done sensitively and engaging with the families. But I think getting young people into schools and out of crime when they are not there is incredibly important,” he said.

The PCC replied: “Some of the parents from the SEND organisations are actually part of the oversight working group. I’m going to be having a meeting with one of the groups so we keep that dialogue open, so I can tell you that there will be no discouragement on my part.”

The pilot is set to end in March 2023, and then it will be independently assessed.

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Panel chair, councillor Ian Dalgarno (Central Bedfordshire Council) said: “One of the concerns I think we have is this will run to March 2023 and it’s stopping whilst all the assessments are done, and you’re then trying to restart it.”

He recommended the assessments were done ‘fairly early’ and that “we look to support it as much as possible to see this continue and not stop it in March.”

The PCC said he would take that on board.