We at CPE-PEN may want to stress a whole range of issues about ‘compulsory school attendance’ but its worth just reading some of the facts in this news release. It really does scream out that there is something devastatingly wrong and that young lives and families are being hit. 

Family Lives report highlights growing levels of concern from parents and carers of secondary school children who truant 

Charity calls for Government to consider non-punitive measures to combat truancy, such as encouraging all schools to offer family support, helping parents manage their child’s behaviour

53% of truancy related calls to charity’s Parentline made reference to their child’s anger

 A new report from Family Lives – ‘Combating Truancy: A Family Lives Report’ – reveals that families continue to be concerned about truancy and the associated risky behaviours their child may also be engaging in.  The report also highlights a worrying trend emerging over the last five years where unauthorised absence in primary schools has increased by 56%, while secondary schools have seen an increase of 21% over the last four years.*

Over a 12 month period between April 2010 and March 2011:

67% of callers seeking truancy advice from Parentline concerned children aged 13-15 years old.

55% of parent callers made mention of their child’s education when calling about truancy compared to 7% across all other issues.

40% of callers mentioned conflict as part of their call about truancy, where conflict typically features in only 16% of calls.

Parents who called about truancy were more likely to mention that their child was engaged in risky behaviours with:

·         Drugs. Five times as many mentioning concerns with drugs – 21% in calls about truanting compared to 4% in other calls

·         Theft. Six times as likely to mention issues about their child stealing – 20% of calls compared to 3% in other calls

·         Alcohol. Five times as many mentioned worries about their child and alcohol – 17% compared to 3%

The report identifies four main reasons for truancy:

 ·         Home and parental pressures, which include a lack of parental engagement in their child’s education and learning, or a chaotic home environment.

·         Peer Relationships, most significantly bullying which can cause children and young people to fear going into school.

·         School based reasons, including systemic issues, leadership issues or a failure on the part of the school to prioritise strategies to prevent truancy.

·         Child Centred reasons, which included low self-esteem, educational disadvantage and mental health problems.. Parentline data found that parents were much more likely to report that their child had self-esteem issues when discussing truancy compared to all other calls (12% of calls compared to 4%).  Parents were also much more likely (53% of truancy calls compared to 14% of all calls) to speak about their child’s anger and more likely to state that their child was stressed (30% compared to 16% of all calls)

A user of Family Lives’ services, whose son truanted, highlighted her concerns to the charity, they said:

 “I have a 16 year old son who is driving me mad.  We have had nothing but trouble with him since he was 15. First it was skipping school, then he got in with the wrong crowd and got into drugs, drink and trouble with the police. We have been to court with him three times for shoplifting, burglary and for affray…He has taken valium, cocaine and cannabis and maybe other drugs. I have been at the end of my tether and at the bad times have even thought of ending my life as that’s how far he has pushed me.”

A user of Family Lives’ Bullying UK website highlighted the impact bullying can have on the health and wellbeing of those affected, they said:

“My grades at school have gone right down and I’m bunking off when my mum’s at work because I can’t face all the lessons I have with the bullies. I’m being called names about my weight and I have nobody to go around with at break. When I sit down with my packed lunch the others get up and move away. I’m taking so much time off that my mum is going to find out soon. I’ve told my head of year and she spoke to them but they’re still doing it. This is making me feel very depressed and I’ve self-harmed a few times.“        

Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive, Family Lives says: 

“Truancy is a significant problem for schools, families and children alike.  On any given day, it is estimated that 64,000 children will skip school without permission**.  Many of the parents Family Lives works with have experienced a breakdown in the parent – child relationship that leaves them unable to enforce boundaries. They have tried everything they can think of to persuade, cajole, bribe or force their children to attend school and have nothing left to try. With the Coalition Government investigating new ways to tackle truancy, including considering proposals to cut benefits to parents with children who truant, Family Lives’ report examines the evidence supporting the use of punitive measures, and finds that in many cases a supportive approach would be far more effective.. Active family support can give parents new skills to get the parent-child relationship back on track, empower the parent to regain their position of authority and enabling them to enforce boundaries.

Schools who take a proactive approach to engaging parents, stand a good chance of bringing down truancy levels and by working with parents can help those children who are persistently absent to re-join their peers. Greater dialogue needs to be encouraged between parents and schools to combat truancy and its associated risks.”

The report makes three recommendations to reduce levels of truancy:

 1.       Government should consider how to encourage all schools to offer family support as part of a core strategy for addressing truancy.  Mechanisms for sharing good practice between schools and clusters of schools should be considered, enabling schools to make the most of extra money afforded as part of the pupil premium.

2.       Schools should give thought to their strategies for engaging parents. Strong parental engagement in education improves outcomes including attendance, but many parents encounter barriers to participating in their child’s education which may include their own poor experience of education. Schools must be aware of the potential barriers and consider strategies for engaging all parents.

3.       Ofsted  have retained a measurement of schools’ work to engage parents under the leadership and management section  of the new draft framework for school inspections which is due to come into force in January 2012, pending the successful passage of a Bill through Parliament. It is essential that inspectors recognise the importance of this measure and its relationship with other factors such as attainment, behaviour and attendance, and continue to prioritise it in the new streamlined inspections regime.

Parents concerned about truancy and the associated risky behaviours can call Family Lives’ free helpline, Parentline, on 0808 800 2222, visit or email for a personalised reply within 3 days.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries, contact: Simon Walsh, Family Lives Press & PR Manager on 07525 403 642 / 020 7 553 3094 or email

* DfE (2011), ‘Pupil Absence in Schools in England, including pupil characteristics: 2009/10’, First Statistical Release, National Audit Office, available at:; DCSF, (2010), ‘Pupil Absence in Schools in England including Pupil Characteristics: 2008/09: First Statistical Release’; DCSF (2009) ‘Pupil Absence in Schools in England, including Pupil Characteristics: 2007/09’

 **DfE(2011) ‘Pupil Absence in Schools in England

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