Truancy has been a problem for schools as long as memories serve, and isn’t going away easily. It hasn’t always had the same level of attention as other issues, such as funding, strikes or workload, but truancy is always there, and is something every school should be looking to tackle.
How prevalent is truancy?
As reported by The Telegraph, truancy cases are on the rise. 2015 saw a jump of 25% from 2013, with nearly 90 prosecutions of parents and guardians taking place on a daily basis over truancy. Naturally, when such sharp growth appears, education professionals are asking themselves why it happens, and what can be done to keep young people in school.
Truancy is a usually a more common issue in secondary schools than primary, in part due to the extra freedoms and responsibilities afforded to pupils, but it is not a problem that doesn’t exist for younger children. The one-to-one nature of classroom teaching in primary schools makes it easier to identify a pattern, yet regular absences labelled as “authorised” can be a clue as to a wider problem that the school needs to handle, and every day missed from school is a day that cannot be recovered easily.
Explanations on the causes of truancy range from boredom in lessons to difficulties at home to influence from other students. Every child is different and will have their own reasons for not turning up to school, but the potential dangers it poses are just as real for them all…
What are the dangers associated with it?
When students aren’t in school, there are a number of areas of their development that are particularly vulnerable. First and foremost is their education. By skipping lessons, they are missing out on valuable knowledge. At no point is there a “good” time to miss out, given the importance of early development and the high stakes for older students as they approach the exams that can decide their future.
Even more serious is the risk posed to the child’s safety. When neither the school nor the guardian knows where the child is, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to protect them in the short term. Children with a history of truancy are shown to be more prone to underage drinking, smoking and use of illegal drugs, none of which can be monitored whilst they are off the radar.
Fortunately, there are methods now that can help schools keep on top of attendance and truancy, and technology can play a big part in a school’s strategy.
How can technology help?
Technology is in a fantastic position to spot trends in the data that would otherwise escape notice. A year 7 student missing the same afternoon as a year 10 on a regular basis might be a clue as to a wider problem, and this early hint too often isn’t realised until examined in retrospect. By highlighting these patterns as soon as they appear, technology allows schools to tackle the problem before it develops into a crisis.
Through products like Groupcall Messenger, technology can help raise the alarm the moment a student is unaccounted for. As registers are logged into the MIS, Messenger can send out automatic communications to all contacts for unauthorised absences, asking for an explanation. In the event of a truant, the parent or guardian will be alerted as soon as possible, and action can be taken immediately. In the awful event of a missing child, police can be notified and searches can begin straight away.
Through Groupcall Emerge, teachers can now access their MIS data on any device, be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. This information includes everything from registers, to attendance, to timetables, and more. By being connected to the MIS at all times, teachers can flag missing children immediately, as time is ever of the essence. All Groupcall products integrate with each other, allowing action to be taken on Messenger as soon as it is captured on Emerge.