School truancy is a common outcome of bullying. Bullied children prefer to risk getting caught bunking off school than to get caught by the bullies.
Around 4% of UK children truant persistently, according to data from a Youth Cohort Study, whilst around half of all children truant at some time, according to the 2003 truancy statistics for England.
There are many causes of truancy ranging from violent antisocial behaviour, to boredom and disaffection, to escaping daily bullying which schools are failing to deal with. Not everyone is academically minded, and academic qualifications are one of the poorest indicators of potential. Academic qualifications do, though, provide lots of statistics that can be published in league tables to show voters how successful education policy is.
News on government action to tackle truancy.
April 2005: 700,000 secondary school pupils skip lessons each year despite government spending £1 billion on truancy prevention programmes
February 2005: no change in truancy rates despite UK government spending £900 million: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4232643.stm
January 2005: Oxfordshire County Council, which is coy about the cost of their anti-truancy policy, has decided to give up prosecuting Mrs Patricia Amos after failing to bring about anything positive.
April 2004: Oxfordshire County Council continues its prosecution of Mrs Patricia Amos. At the same time the Chief Executive of Oxfordshire County Council is given a pay rise of nearly six times the rate of inflation whilst council tax payers bear a rise of three times the rate of inflation and most OCC employees are denied a pay rise (some receive a pay cut). Morale at Oxfordshire County Council is said to be at an all-time low. [More]
May 2002: Oxfordshire mother jailed because her daughters truanted from school: Oxfordshire County Council is the first Education Authority to pioneer the jailing of mothers of children who truant from school. Whilst one cannot condone truanting, it would similarly be difficult condone the actions of a Local Education Authority which has spent council taxpayer's money on defending bullying cases and prosecuting parents but simultaneously failed to address bullying of staff and pupils in Oxfordshire. Oxfordshire County Council's treatment of bullied teachers over a decade has been described as "inhuman". Over half the people I talk to remember their school days as unhappy and abusive. [One survivor's experience] BBC Talking point invited people's views on the jailing of Patricia Amos (bullying and schools' failure to deal with bullying is mentioned frequently): http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/talking_point/newsid_1984000/1984821.stm. It may be that future historians will look back and see the jailing of mothers because their daughters truant from school in the same light as we now view the burning of witches.
May 2002: Oxfordshire County Council defeats mother whose son suffered a stress breakdown because of long-term bullying which Oxfordshire schools repeatedly failed to deal with: http://www.thisisoxfordshire.co.uk/oxfordshire/archive/2002/05/09/NEWS22ZM.html
Schools fail to deal with bullying
Over 50,000 families in the UK have chosen to take their children out of school and educate them at home. Bullying - and the school's refusal to take bullying seriously, and the Local Education Authority's refusal to take action against school which fail to fulfil their legal obligation of duty of care - is one of the most commonly quoted reasons. Around 150,000 children, or 1% of 5-16-year-olds are now educated at home. This figure is expected to rise to 3%, or nearly half a million children, by 2010.
At least 16 children commit suicide each year in the UK because of bullying which the school is failing to deal with. When accidental deaths, misadventures and open verdicts are taken into account, the figure could be 50-100 child deaths each year. These figures were established from a variety of sources during the writing of our book, Bullycide: death at playtime, an expose of child suicide caused by bullying. We discovered during the writing of Bullycide that if bullying is rife in the playground, it's likely to be rife in the staff room, and vice-versa. The good teachers, who are always in the majority, become disempowered and disenfranchised and thus find themselves frustrated in their attempts to take effective action. Teachers and lecturers have consistently been the largest group of callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line and enquirers to Bully OnLine at Bully Online.
Obsession with academic exam results at the root of failing education policy
Whilst there's a place for exams, I believe academic exam results are one of the poorest indicators of potential. Many of the world's most successful people left school with few, and sometimes no, qualifications. These include Albert Einstein (scientist), Soichira Honda (founder of Honda Motor Corporation), Ray Kroc (founder of MacDonalds), Pete Waterman (multi-millionaire record producer), Richard Branson (multimillionaire entrepreneur and inspiration), Philip Green (self-made millionaire businessman and CEO of BHS [British Home Stores]) etc. It could even be said that a surfeit of academic qualifications might condemn one to a life of mediocrity.
As Mark Twain said, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education".
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