Truancy levels soar in Capital’s worst classrooms

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TRUANCY levels are soaring in Edinburgh’s worst-hit ­classrooms despite overall attendance improving.

Some city schools have recorded unexplained absence rates of nearly one in ten pupils – way above the national average – sparking concern over disruption to learning.

New figures from the Scottish Government and national standards agency Education Scotland show that, while the overall picture across ­Edinburgh is improving, ­significant numbers of pupils at some high schools are ­continuing to bunk off.

At Castlebrae Community High, truancy rates among the school’s S4 year group in 2012-13 were 8.3 per cent.

And nearly seven per cent of possible attendances were lost by S3 youngsters at Craigroyston High who failed to show up for class.

By comparison, average rates at Currie and Queensferry high schools were just 0.7 per cent.

Ken Cunningham, ­general secretary of head teachers association School Leaders Scotland, said: “If youngsters are not at school, they’re not ­learning.

“And if they’re not at school it creates another problem for the class teacher in managing a class that could be disrupted by a pupil coming in and out.”

Across Edinburgh, 2.1 per cent of attendances were lost to truancy and unexplained absence – below the 2.5 per cent figure recorded nationally.

The figures come as city education chiefs adopt an increasingly tough stance on persistent truancy. Last year they filed court complaints against three sets of parents over claims ­pupils in Edinburgh schools had attendance rates as low as 46 per cent.

Mr Cunningham said robust action would be crucial to driving the figures down further but stressed the focus should always be on a ­tailored response to the needs of ­individual ­pupils.

“I’m supportive of any council that takes action to get youngsters into school and support them there,” he said. “These figures will come as no surprise. Heads will be looking at their figures on a regular basis but what they’re doing is looking at individual cases – individual children with ­individual circumstances and difficulties.

“In dealing with the problem, head teachers will be looking at the range of provision which the school has – about how it handles young people and deals with them in an appropriate way given the incidence of unauthorised absence.

“And they’ll be continuing with the advice and support that’s available from the city council and the Scottish ­Government for youngsters who are in severe difficulty.”

Education bosses, who are obliged by law to tackle school truancy, said they had taken tough action.

Cllr Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Attendance figures have been improving every year and I’m pleased our high schools have a better record than the Scottish average.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com