Schools are planning to take a tougher line to get truants back into class by enlisting nurses to confront parents about children’s symptoms when they are reported as sick.
The crackdown has been prompted by soaring absence rates with, on average, nearly one in five children absent from Portsmouth schools for the equivalent of at least one full day every two weeks.
Absentee rates in Fareham, Gosport and Havant are slightly below the national average.
Our education reporter Neil Fatkin went out to speak to parents about whether they though enlisting nurses was a good idea.
Natalie Reeds has a child at Portsdown School
‘Overall I think it is a good idea as some children play their parents and for some it can can be easier to say okay to staying off. I have a child with special needs who may suffer from different conditions to mainstream children. My only concern is whether the nurse is qualified to understand the health concerns of such children.’
Melissa Healy also has children at Portsdown
’I think it is a good idea. Some parents find it really difficult to access support. I would hope that if this idea is introduced then those parents would get the support to help ensure those children who don’t need to be off are in school where they should be.’
Kirsty Lees is a mother of two children, with one currently in Year 2 at at Highbury Primary School
‘I think having nurses in school is a good idea to help prevent unnecessary absences. I think it will hopefully act as a deterrent and improve attendance.’
Darren Edwards and Jimmy Lyndsey both have children attending city schools
‘I don’t think you should have to explain yourself to a nurse straight away. If the nurse got in touch after a few days then that would be better. It would be annoying to be getting a call as soon as my child was ill. That call should be made depending on the child and their attendance record.’
’I see where the council are coming from but it makes out that you are being dishonest. My daughter had a heart operation and often seems to pick up germs.’
Many parents also feel justified in taking their children on holiday during term time due to the excessive increase in cost over the school holidays. Here’s what they said:
Emma and Stewart Loader, from Paulsgrove, have three children in local schools
‘I went on holiday during term time and it never did me any harm as I got the exam results I wanted. We do it as it is just so much cheaper – you can save thousands of pounds.’
‘The government need to tackle the holiday companies about increasing the price during school holiday periods. If the price wasn’t so expensive then we obviously wouldn’t take students out during term time.’
Kevin and Rachel Gamblin have children in Fareham schools
‘We have taken our children out because it is much cheaper. We would only ever do it for a couple of days. I wouldn’t do it for a couple of weeks because it would have a big impact on their education. The holiday companies push the prices up. If that was sorted out then you wouldn’t have the problem.’
Lisa Purtill also has children at Portsdown
‘I am 50 50 on the idea. In some ways it it is a good thing as it may stop children trying it on but on the other hand I feel it is questioning the integrity of the parents.’
Alison McCloud is a mother of five children
‘I think it is a bit extreme. How can a nurse tell if a child is ill over the phone. I think you would be better investing the money elsewhere.’