HC Deb 27 July 1999 vol 336 cc188-9W
Ms Buck

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress there has been on tackling truancy and school exclusion since the Social Exclusion Unit's report on Truancy and School Exclusion was published in May 1998. [93825]

Ms Estelle Morris

The Ministerial Task Force on Truancy and School Exclusion, which I chair, has today sent its first annual report on truancy and school exclusion to the Prime Minister. The report sets out the action we have taken to implement the recommendations in the Social Exclusion Unit's report, including examples of good practice, and sets out our priorities for 1999–2000.

We are pleased to report that permanent exclusions have fallen by 3 per cent. (from 12,700 in the 1996–97 school year to 12,300 in 1997–98). This is particularly good news because it is the first time that permanent exclusions have fallen since my Department began collecting information on exclusions in 1994–95.

Since the "Truancy and School Exclusion" report was published, we have: made available through the "Social Inclusion: Pupil Support" grant some £500 million over the next three years to tackle truancy and exclusion from school. As part of the Government's commitment to ensuring that all pupils who are excluded for more than three weeks have access to a full-time and appropriate timetable by 2002, this includes £22 million made available to local education authorities in 1999–2000 to extend out of school provision; required local education authorities to set targets for reducing unauthorised absence and permanent exclusions within their Education Development Plans—in order to meet the national target of a one third reduction in levels of unauthorised absence and school exclusion by 2002; given the police, under the "Crime and Disorder Act 1998", a new power to pick up truants and return them to designated premises. issued new guidance on "Social inclusion: Pupil Support", which brings together advice on attendance, discipline, the use of exclusion, education outside school and re-integration, with a focus on early intervention. The document emphasises the importance of multi-agency support.

Our priorities for 1999–2000 include: new local education authority targets for reducing the level of fixed period exclusions; continued work to secure more joined up working at local level to support pupils who are at risk of truancy or disaffection; following recommendations in the Macpherson report, a consultation on how to increase the amount of exclusions information which is published down to school level, including information about the ethnicity of excluded pupils; generating more innovative ideas for tackling truancy and exclusion from school (from 2000–01); as part of the "Excellence in Cities" initiative, the introduction of learning mentors and learning support units to tackle disaffection and barriers to learning.