Patrols of town centre to challenge school absences

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Hotspots in Barnsley town centre, where children have been known to gather during school hours, has been targeted by a joint patrol of Barnsley Council’s education welfare officers and police officers.

The transport interchange, Cheapside shopping precinct, Mandela Gardens and Alhambra Centre were visited by the patrol during a school day in November. The aim was to stop and challenge parents with school-age children and unaccompanied children to raise awareness of the importance of school attendance.

In total, 30 children were stopped and challenged on their reasons for absence from school; 15 were primary school age and 15 were secondary school age. Five primary school children were unaccompanied. Three of the 30 children attended schools outside of the borough and another three were being home educated.

Coun Tim Cheetham, Cabinet spokesperson for People, said: “Where parents claimed their children were not fit for school, discussions took place about the appropriateness of the child being out of the home when unwell.

“All relevant schools were informed by the patrol officers that the parent and child had been stopped so the school could make a decision whether to authorise the child’s absence, or record it as unauthorised. In addition, the school’s education welfare officer was informed so that follow-up action could take place as required.

“All the pupils and parents challenged were given a leaflet to explain the reason for the sweep and, where the absence was for medical reasons, advised to return to school as soon as the appointment was completed.

“Future patrols may be repeated in the town centre, or switch to surrounding communities.”