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We're well schooled in tacking the truants[...]; New truancy figures have been released by the Government for every primary and secondary school. NICOLA WEATHERALL looks at how North East schools fared.

OUR region's schools are winning the battle against pupils bunking off classes, new Government figures have revealed.

The Department for Education has released data showing the level of unauthorised absence in the country's primary and secondary schools.

And the statistics show schools in the North East are successfully tackling the issue, with local authorities performing better than the national average.

In North Tyneside, the percentage for half days missed through truancy during 2009/10 was 0.47% for primaries and 1.33% for secondaries. The national average for primary schools is 0.67% and for secondary schools it's 1.38%.

South Tyneside has the lowest level of unauthorised absence in primary schools, with just 0.23% of half days lost in the year. This is down from 0.33% for 2008/09.

Northumberland has the lowest level of truancy in our region for secondary schools at 0.78%, followed by County Durham with 0.98%.

Angela Cunningham, senior education welfare officer at Northumberland County Council, said: "The council works in close partnership with schools, governors and parents to curb unauthorised absences as promptly as possible. Truancy and absenteeism is often the presenting problem, not the real one. However, when children get out of the habit of going to school, they fall behind in their work, become de-motivated and that keeps them out even more. We ask schools to monitor pupil attendance and to target students whose attendance starts to drop off at the first opportunity."

Gateshead's figure for persistent truancy is now 1.2%, compared to 1.7% the previous year and a national average of 1.4%.

David Mitchell, Gateshead Council's director of learning and schools, said: "It's really satisfying to see levels of repeat absenteeism remaining below the national average. I believe this is really tangible evidence of the work of teachers and school staff in Gateshead making a difference to children's lives."

Truancy levels in Newcastle are slightly higher, with 1.02% of half days missed for primaries and 2.19% for secondaries. However, this does not reflect a downward trend. The Tyneside-based national charity, Family Lives, formerly known as Parentline Plus, says many of the calls it receives are from parents concerned about their children skipping school.

A spokeswoman said: "When your child is in trouble at school or truanting, you may feel desperate with no idea what to do.

"Remember, children may truant because they are being bullied or due to problems at home. Talk to the school at the earliest opportunity and work together to support your child."


BUNKING OFF The latest figures show schools in the North East are successfully tackling truancy PICTURE POSED BY MODELS
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 30, 2011
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