COMMENT: Truancy can’t be tackled without the right funding

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We should all be concerned about the level of truancy in Portsmouth schools. Because if children are not in lessons, they are missing out on education – and that could cost them dear in later life.

Today we report how the headteacher at The Flying Bull Academy in the city, Deamonn Hewett-Dale, blames funding cuts that have meant reduced support from social care and mental health services to help children who don’t want to go to school.

That is a worry – and Mr Hewett-Dale says it is only going to get worse as budgets are squeezed even tighter.

His school still has funding for an attendance team dedicated to helping students who don’t come to school, but he says other schools no longer have something similar.

Deputy head teacher at Admiral Lord Nelson School Matthew Hutton doesn’t mince his words. He thinks recent cuts are ‘killing’ schools.

He has called for councils and schools to work together to tackle truancy, using early intervention to address school absences from a young age.

We agree that makes perfect sense. But if the money’s not there to help make this happen, how can we realistically expect school attendance to improve?

Councillor Hannah Hockaday, cabinet member for education at the city council, says improving school attendance remains ‘a priority’ and wants to work in partnership with all schools and academies in the city.

Again, that sounds sensible. As does the council’s attendance strategy that has ensuring parents meet their responsibilities by sending their children to school as one of its priorities.

At the end of the day it all comes down to money. We say education has to be a priority – but even the very best learning environment is not much use if pupils don’t turn up.