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Rounding up the truants

POLICE are set to round up truants in Huddersfield and send them back to school.

POLICE are set to round up truants in Huddersfield and send them back to school.

The move to patrol hot-spots where children go when skipping school comes as Kirklees Council reports 303 youngsters being absent without an excuse each day.

Others are thought to be sneaking away from school after receiving their morning registration mark.

And education chiefs are worried they could be facing a range of dangers such as crime, drugs, solvent abuse, prostitution and sheltering in derelict buildings and the homes of unknown adults including paedophiles.

The joint move, called Attendance Watch, is between West Yorkshire Police and education social workers.

It is set to be given the go-ahead at a Kirklees Council cabinet meeting at Cleckheaton Town Hall tomorrow.

School attendance in Kirklees is better than average but each day 2,073 are absent.

Of these, 1,770 have acceptable explanations for not being at school, such as sickness. This leaves 303 who do not have a justifiable reason for staying away.

Research by the Department for Education and Skills and Kirklees Council suggests most are at home.

But others are out and about and at risk.

A report to the council's cabinet recommends taking up powers in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to hunt for truants.

Clr John Smithson, council cabinet member with responsibility for lifelong learning, said: "We have already talked to head teachers about this and they are very supportive.

"It's about keeping children safe, protecting them from temptation and from whatever dangers they could face when they are out of school.

"It's also clearly about encouraging children to come to school. If they aren't in class then we cannot educate them."

Teams of up to three police officers and three education social workers are set to visit known haunts and danger areas. Posters and information leaflets will be sent to shops and community centres.

Youngsters found out of school will be taken back, or to a parent or relative. No-one will be arrested unless they are caught committing a crime.

Chief Insp David Lunn, Kirklees community safety co-ordinator for West Yorkshire Police, said: "Children are at risk when they are out of school. We want to get them back into education so they can gain qualifications and a good start in life."


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