HC Deb 20 July 2000 vol 354 cc303-4W
Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent discussions he has had with London education departments on truancy of school children within their boroughs. [131470]

Jacqui Smith

We are in regular contact with many local education authorities in London about truancy, and the disruption it has on continuity of learning and the wider social and community costs.

We have in place a range of measures to tackle truancy and improve attendance in our schools. Our Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Grant—worth over £500 million in three years—is providing practical support to local education authorities and schools. For 2000–01, London local education authorities will receive just over £26.5 million out of the grant to support local projects. Projects include electronic equipment to monitor attendance, additional staff to chase-up truants and reward schemes for acknowledging regular attendance.

£ million
Provisional expenditure1
Programme 1999–2000 allocation Amount Percentage Carry forward
New Deal for young people 775 287 37 488
New Deal for long-term unemployed 222 80 36 142
New Deal for lone parents2 51 34 67 17
New Deal for disabled2 12 9 75 3
Total 1,060 410 38 3650
1 Expenditure figures, while unlikely to change significantly, remain provisional until end year accounts are finalised and exclude a total of £86 million spent out of existing departmental provision
2 New Deals for lone parents and the disabled are programmes operating jointly between the DfEE and DSS and figures given are those for DfEE only
3 Underspends are either carried forward to cover anticipated expenditure for respective New Deals into future years or made available to support the Welfare to Work programme

The numbers of people entering New Deal programmes were lower than had earlier been projected on the basis of the Government's unemployment assumption at the time. That is one major reason why expenditure in 1999–2000 was considerably below the level of the original allocation. A second reason is the success of the New Deal for young people itself which also contributed to the level of expenditure being much lower than the original allocations.

The programme aims to help as many people as possible to leave its Gateway for jobs. The original planning assumption was that 60 per cent. would need to

We are also encouraging local education authorities to undertake regular "Truancy Sweeps" in conjunction with the police. During these sweeps, truants are picked up from the streets during school hours and are taken back either to their schools or a designated place. Several effective sweeps have been undertaken in London with our support.

In addition, I recently announced the pilot areas to test the devolvement of Education Welfare Services to secondary schools. The aim is to see whether attendance officers employed directly by schools would make it easier to deal with truancy quickly. Of the 15 local education authorities selected, five are from London—Barnet, Camden, Haringey, Havering and Westminster. I am pleased that the pilot will be fully tested in London, in a variety of boroughs. We will be in regular contact with these authorities as the pilot progresses.