Academy kicks out truants

ONE of Sheffield's new City Academies has been rapped across the knuckles for axing 17 truanting pupils from its register without permission.

Tuesday, 11th September 2007, 4:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th September 2007, 10:44 am

The pupils at Arbourthorne's Sheffield Springs Academy - formerly Myrtle Springs School - were all persistent and long-term non-attenders who had not been seen in class during last year's autumn term.

Academy managers removed the students from the school roll last January - effectively leaving it to the council to sort out the problem.

Springs has been given a stiff warning that the practice must not happen again, and the Academy has launched an internal investigation into why the decision was taken.

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It is the first time the council has clashed with an Academy - Springs is one of two in the city run by the Christian charity United Learning Trust.

Academies in other parts of the country have been attacked in the past for being too eager to expel disruptive pupils.

Critics will argue Springs' decision was equally unacceptable, effectively washing its hands of truanting youngsters and leaving the problem for the council to sort out.

But Springs bosses said the council's education welfare service had failed to get the truants back to school, and added the Academy had inherited a very poor attendance record.

It says by removing the 17 from the school roll, it acted responsibly by not claiming funding for pupils who were not actually students.

ULT chief executive Sir Ewan Harper said despite best intentions and advice received from a central education body, regulations may not have been fully followed.

"When we opened we inherited a school with a very poor attendance record and student data that appeared to bear little relation to what was happening on the ground," he said.

"We have spent the past year getting a grip on both these issues and have been successful in both."

Read more: The cost of truancy. Click here.

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Cabinet member for children's services Coun Harry Harpham said he was confident the action would not be repeated in future.

"Removing pupils from the rolls without sufficient reason is not allowed in any school. The council made this clear to ULT and we ensured that they stopped doing this," he said.

"The issue needs to be given the fullest attention and I am pleased that ULT has launched a management investigation into this action.

"Because this is not permitted, I have been assured those pupils who are still of school age will remain on the roll."

Executive director of the children's service Jonathan Crossley-Holland said: "The local authority's education welfare officer service in the area has lessons to learn about how to be more effective in ensuring pupils who are persistently absent return."

Of the truants some are now above compulsory school age, some are in other schools, at college or on training schemes, and the rest have been readmitted to Springs.

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