NI school absenteeism on the rise

Published Wednesday, 11 June 2014
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Rates of unauthorised absence among school children in Northern Ireland are double that in England, a Stormont committee has found.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) expressed concern that the percentage of unapproved absences rose from 27% to 33% in the four years up to 2012.

Committee members highlighted particular concerns about attendance levels among pupils from socially deprived backgrounds, Traveller children and those in care.

They accused the specialist support body, Education Welfare Service (EWS), of not being on top of the problem of non-attendance.

The EWS is provided by the Education and Library Boards and it employs 134 Education Welfare Officers at a cost of £8.8m each year.

The committee found that 16,000 cases of pupils being off for more than six weeks in the year had not been referred to the EWS.

Committee chair Michaela Boyle said: "Education is crucial for our young people and we are very concerned that they are not taking advantage of their opportunities.

"We know that there are complex reasons why a child might be absent from school and it is important that the education system gets to grips with tackling these issues.

"This is the only way that the system will manage to break the vicious cycle of underachievement of the most vulnerable groups of our society."

The report found that many of those who miss school are not contacted by the EWS and therefore do not get the help or assistance they might need.

The committee recommended that the EWS put into place a mechanism to identify pupils requiring help at the earliest possible opportunity.

"The committee accepts that there is no simple solution to resolving these issues," said Ms Boyle.

"However, our report found that there were examples of schools that have managed to deal with the issue of non-attendance through collaboration with parents and communities, despite very challenging circumstances.

"We believe that more can be done through better collaboration and the development of a coherent attendance strategy. These mechanisms should be put into place urgently."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Larry in Belfast wrote (228 days ago):
I'm not surprised at all. There is no discipline 'allowed' for parents or teachers to control the children, and hence they just do what they like and get off with it. It is the old neglect of Christian principles which says clearly that if you 'spare the rod you will spoil the child'. If you love your child they should be chastised when necessary. It is human nature to do what is wrong {or sin}, but a child has to be taught to do what is right and respect authority.
Hilary in Belfast wrote (230 days ago):
@J, wise up!! It's to do with parents who can't be bothered getting out of bed and taking their children to school!! End of,to blame anyone else is a complete joke.
Head of pastoral care in Belfast wrote (230 days ago):
It is high time for the legal system to support schools and the EWS who are doing evrything they can to improve attendance. Most cases referred to court are thrown out!! Where's the support for the EWS who are under resourced and extremely hard working. From a VP of a secondary school
J in Northern Ireland wrote (230 days ago):
The Education Minister has single handedly ruined our education system! From dismantling rural education to closing special schools, Truancy at an all time high to under funding integrated education. This man has been a complete failure! Now it is time for this clown to go and go immediately! O'Dowd Must Go! he should do the descent thing and resign.
Viewer in Antrim wrote (230 days ago):
The EWS does not have proper resources to deal with this issue. Lack of investment, under resourced, stressed staff working from home to keep on top of red tape, lack of asssistance from GP's school SENCO's and other agencies. Time for management to wake up and smell the coffee and see what is really going on and not on a spreadsheet.
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