HC Deb 03 April 1984 vol 57 cc801-2
14. Dr. Mawhinney

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he last officially received truancy figures from Cambridgeshire county council.

Mr. Dunn

School attendance figures were last received from that authority in 1977, as part of a sample survey.

Dr. Mawhinney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. When he formulates education policy for Cambridgeshire and the rest of the country, especially for under-achievers and under-motivated students, will he not be assisted by knowing how many were at school and, more important, why those not attending school stay away?

Mr. Dunn

The answer to the broad sense of the question is yes. We believe that our policies on the school curriculum are a means of combating truancy by ensuring that the pupils regard what is offered to them as relevant to their needs. There are, however, other means at our disposal.

Mr. Freud

If the school curriculum provided lessons not only for the academically able but for those who underachieve, would not truancy rates fall very considerably? Is not truancy the responsibility of the Minister, in that he introduced rate-capping and penalties on local education authorities that made it so hard to engage teachers to achieve those curricula?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman is a member of the Liberal party, which has never got it right yet. We intend to take a number of initiatives soon to focus the attention of the education welfare service more sharply on school attendance issues. The hon. Gentleman's other points do not relate to the question.

Sir Anthony Grant

Is my hon. Friend aware that the police have discovered that there is an increasing link between truancy and juvenile crime, particularly vandalism? Will he consider meeting his colleagues in the Home Office to see that the matter is taken seriously and to discuss what can be done about it?

Mr. Dunn

Like my hon. Friend, I believe that there is a link between truancy and juvenile crime. The causal connections are not firmly established. We have interdepartmental conversations and meetings with our colleagues in the Home Office. I assure my hon. Friend that that matter has been at the forefront of my attention.

Mr. Flannery

Has the Minister noticed that there is some ambiguity in the original question asked by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney)? The question does not refer to truancy in schools. I understand that Cambridgeshire county council keeps a tight ship—it cuts and cuts. The question could mean truancy in the Cambridgeshire county council and that some council members are missing.

Mr. Dunn

I do not think that I can find a suitable reply to that question. On the other hand, I shall say that I have every confidence that the Conservative-controlled Cambridgeshire authority will do its level best at all times to provide the best service for the people and children in the area.