§ Mr. Barry Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what support has been given to schools to reduce the level of unauthorised absences. 
§ Jacqui Smith
Our objective is to reduce the learning time lost due to truancy and exclusion by one third by year 2002. Over three years we are investing £500 million across England on projects tackling truancy and school exclusion, and other initiatives to get children back into school and learning. Projects supported include the purchasing of electronic equipment to monitor attendance, additional staff to chase-up truants, and reward schemes for acknowledging regular attendance. We are also encouraging schools to set up pupil mentoring schemes and to develop home-school liaison through the implementation of home-school agreements. All of these activities are designed to help schools reduce unauthorised absence.
On 1 November 1999 we issued our strategy document "Tackling Truancy Together" which sets out our further proposals for helping to reduce unauthorised absence from school. We are currently considering the many responses we received to the proposals in that document, and will make an announcement soon on what further action we want to take to help reduce unauthorised absence from school.