HC Deb 30 March 1976 vol 908 cc1086-7
7. Dr. Edmund Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in how many cases, during the last school year for which the figure is available, court proceedings were instituted under Section 40 of the Education Act 1944.

Mr. Mulley

I understand from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that this information is not available.

Dr. Marshall

In view of the truancy statistics, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that local education authorities are giving sufficient attention to the problem of truancy, including recourse to the courts where appropriate?

Mr. Mulley

I understand that my hon. Friend is concerned to have any and every available statistic, but the assembly of statistics involves the use of central and local resources. All the criminal statistics for offences under the Education Acts are available, but not section by section. I do not think that local authorities are neglecting the question of court proceedings, where appropriate, but very often other methods are tried before the ultimate resort to court action against the parents.

Mr. Freud

In view of the futility of bringing prosecutions against parents, would it not be much more sensible to spend the money on assessing the reasons for the truancy?

Mr. Mulley

I think that in a number of cases great efforts are made to deal with each problem as an individual problem. I do not think it is a question of counting up the money. The local education authorities who are responsible for these matters must be allowed to exercise their own judgment. It is not for me to tell them how to go about that problem.

Mr. Bowden

Is the Secretary of State aware that I should be delighted to arrange for him to receive an invitation to come to Brighton to visit a number of schools which are facing serious truancy problems? Is he aware that one of the reasons for this problem is the operation of the existing law in relation to the school leaving age? Boys and girls are being forced to stay on at school, and it is really crazy that they should be doing so when over 16. When does the Minister hope to rectify this position?

Mr. Mulley

I have said before and say again that one of the actions of the present Leader of the Opposition which had my full support was her raising of the school leaving age. We have tried to deal with the transitional problems at the end of the summer term by legislation that has just received the Royal Assent. I do not think the answer to this problem is to say that we shall go back on the decision taken by the Conservative Administration to raise the age to 16.

Mr. Lipton

Is it not a fact, however, that truancy fears generally are grossly exaggerated in the popular Press?

Mr. Mulley

I think that may well be the case, but they would not be exclusively the subject of exaggeration in the popular Press.

Back to