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Learning their lesson.

Byline: Joanna Desira

A truancy crackdown involving the Evening Gazette has been hailed a huge success.

Latest available figures from Middlesbrough education officers reveal that since the campaign was launched at the beginning of November, the number of children stopped in the streets during school time has fallen.

The crackdown is a joint campaign between the education authority, Cleveland Police, street wardens and the Evening Gazette.

The Truancy Free Zone was launched on November 1 in an effort to tackle anti-social behaviour and reduce the number of children skipping school, after police and street wardens noticed a link between the two.

As part of the campaign, police, police community support officers and street wardens have been carrying out daily stop-checks on children wandering the town.

A truancy troubleshooter has also been drafted in and parents whose child has been stopped get a knock on the door within 48 hours.

The parents of the most persistent truants are also warned they could face a prison sentence or hefty fines.

Latest figures reveal 92pc of pupils have been in school since the launch of the campaign. However, when the figures were compiled, not all schools had handed over their attendance records.

A total of 102 children have been stopped - 35pc of them were alone, 9pc were with a parent and 57pc were with a friend or in a group.

Of those stopped, 64pc have improved their attendance.

Lesley Smith, senior education welfare officer at the education authority, said: "The indications are that there has been a positive increase in attendance and the situation is improving.

"We stopped more people at the beginning of the campaign and the figures have been decreasing.

"That in itself is a positive indicator because more people are realising they are going to be stopped if they are out and about during school time," she said.

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police, said: "We will continue pushing all the way with the truancy campaign and as children are now having their school holidays we hope, in the new year, parents are going to be responsible and will support us in making sure children return to school."

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Title Annotation:News Truancy
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Dec 22, 2004
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