Gove toughens up schools to ''save'' kids01 September 2011
In announcing new measures to tackle truancy, the Education Secretary has said that the coalition has just published shocking figures that the previous government tried to hide.
Speaking at the Durand Academy in Stockwell, south London, with publicservice.co.uk in attendance, Michael Gove said that young people who constitute an "educational underclass" simply don't spend enough time in education. But the true scale of truancy in this country has been masked by statistical manipulation, he said, and the link between truancy and educational failure was stark.
"There is a dreadful correlation between poor attendance and educational failure," he said, "[and] we have just published the data that the last government kept secret.
"Under the last government the critical measure of truancy was persistent absence [and] for a child to count as persistently absent they had to miss at least 20 per cent of sessions. There are currently 175,718 children who are absent for this length of time. But if you look at the number of children who are absent for 15 per cent of school time – at least a whole month of education – the total is 433,129."
Gove went on: "The number of children who are absent for 10 per cent of the school year, around 30 sessions, is over a million – a missing million young people, missing out on school, missing out on learning, missing out on the opportunity to succeed."
He pointed out that only a third of those students who miss 10 to 20 per cent of school get the basic minimum of five decent GCSE passes. But three quarters of those who attend 95 per cent of lessons get the crucial qualifications.
"We have tightened the rules so that it is 15 per cent now as the cut off point for being persistently absent and in due course I want to go further," Gove said. "We will give teachers the power to ensure attendance improves.
"They can at the moment issue attendance notices and go to the courts to ensure mothers and fathers do their duty to get young people to attend school. But policing of these sanctions is weak. When fines are imposed they are often reduced to take account of an adult's expenditure on satellite TV, alcohol and cigarettes. And many appear to shrug off fines and avoid existing sanctions, refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
"So we need to review the sanctions schools, the police, the courts and the government have available. I will be asking a team of teaching professionals under the leadership of our discipline adviser and outstanding head teacher Charlie Taylor to review these and other policies we might implement to prevent more young people falling into the educational underclass."
The Education Secretary continued: "In return for giving schools more power, we will also expect them to secure improved attendance. Schools where truancy persists can expect much closer scrutiny. In preparation for the new tougher inspection system Ofsted will be trialling no notice inspections this term, targeting schools with poor disciplinary records and poor attendance.
"Ofsted will be mounting surprise inspections [which] will mean that schools cannot, as some do, use a notice period to hide disciplinary issues. And the insistence on effective attendance will mean schools cannot, as some have, hide their poor disciplinary record by acquiescing in the absence of the most disruptive children. We cannot have a situation where the most in need are abandoned, denied their right to education because we have denied teachers the authority they need to teach."