HC Deb 02 December 1974 vol 882 cc1096-8
9. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has noted the concern expressed by the Welsh Secondary Schools Association about persistent truancy in schools in Wales; and what proposals he has for helping deal with this problem.

Mr. Barry Jones

Yes, and I share its concern. My right hon. and learned Friend has set up a departmental working party to consider the problem in Wales. Its recommendations are expected early in the new year.

Sir Raymond Gower

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Will he say when he expects the inquiry to be completed, and to what extent the working party will get statistical information that can be made known so that we can all assess the problems?

Mr. Jones

We have already had a large amount of statistical evidence. It is well known, and it would be made available to the hon. Gentleman should he wish it. I should like him to know that Welsh Office officials have met the Welsh Secondary Schools Association and discussed this and other problems relating to secondary education. At the last meeting the association was invited to submit a paper on trunacy to the Department.

Mr. Lipton

If as a result of this inquiry constructive recommendations emerge, will my hon. Friend be good enough to pass them on to the Inner London Education Authority, which is also concerned with truancy? We are willing to learn from anybody.

Mr. Jones

All constructive recommendations are highly regarded in the Welsh Office and, with some modesty, we should pass them on to the ILEA.

Mr. Fred Evans

I welcome a London Welshman to the fold. Does my hon. Friend accept that all those engaged in education have for a long time been deeply concerned about this problem and the impact that it has on the general social environment? Will he accept, also, that this is a factor that could easily be overplayed compared with downtown schools, and particularly downtown comprehensive schools? May I ask, therefore, that when the statistics are compiled and the discussions begin there will be a measure of constraint and not exacerbation?

Mr. Jones

The whole House respects my hon. Friend's expertise in education, and I suspect that my opinions are similar to his. To blame the level of truancy on factors such as the raising of the school leaving age or the size, organisation and pattern of schools is to oversimplify what is clearly a complex problem.

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