HC Deb 10 June 1971 vol 818 cc1226-7
34. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what has been the average number and percentage of absentees from all primary and secondary schools, respectively, in the United Kingdom in the first and second quarter of 1971; how this compares with the figure for each of the previous five years; and what were the number absent due to the principal causes, including sickness and truancy.

Mrs. Thatcher

My Department has never collected statistics about absence of pupils from school and the information which my hon. Friend would like could be obtained only by special inquiry of each local education authority.

Mr. Osborn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the head teachers' conference has categorically stated that truancy is on the increase? Would she also bear in mind that this may be a problem with those who have to stay on at school, that is, the minority, when the school-leaving age is raised? They are a minority who are of concern to teachers.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, I know that this will be a problem, but if children are difficult at the age when they would have left school, this is a very good reason for having another go at trying to help them, before they go out into the world and become part of the adult community.

Mr. Pavitt

On the question of absence through sickness, does the right hon. Lady think that it would be an advantage in this problem if the school medical service were absorbed into the general National Health Service? Has she considered this possibility when the Health Service is restructured?

Mrs. Thatcher

The future of the school health service is being considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and myself.