It is a positive step to hear that the number of children missing education – or truanting on a regular basis – is falling. It seems that the main reasons for unauthorised absence are holidays during term time and sickness, and these are both being reduced.
It is also welcome to see – and I am pleased that Mr Gibb takes the same view – “that when children miss a substantial part of the school term their academic achievement suffers permanently,”
Which brings me to the subject of children missing education because of severe bullying. Whilst the number of such children is nowhere near the number quoted in the BBC News of 55,600 ‘playing truant’, having commissioned NatCen to conduct research into how many children were missing education because of severe bullying , Red Balloon found the figures to be quite shocking – 16,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15 feel unable to go to school because of the bullying they have experienced. And they miss school for days, weeks and months and in some cases years. Interestingly Mr Gibb says academic damage can be caused by missing even a day or two – so what about a year or two!
So what is the government doing to help these children restore their self-confidence, catch up on their academic studies and return to school? – Because if they do not have a leg-up they will become ill-educated, depressed unemployed young adults with no future. The answer is not much – if anything. Children who are difficult and challenging and who truant are helped to have a fulltime education – parents of children who are severely bullied are often persuaded to arrange home education.
Many of the bullied children just want to be able to go to a school where there is a calm, positive supportive learning environment – so they can get on with their studies. Their parents want this too – but in the face of physical and verbal attacks, cyber-bullying, humiliation and ostracism for some children this is an impossibility. So whilst Mr Gibb is pleased that truancy numbers are falling, he is doing nothing for this group of severely bullied children to help them back to school.