Teacher training hinders truancy sweep

A POLICING crackdown on truants hit a snag yesterday when it emerged many pupils were out of the classroom because of teacher-training days. The “truancy sweep” across Colchester was a joint initiative between Essex Police and educational welfare officers from the county council.

A POLICING crackdown on truants hit a snag yesterday when it emerged many pupils were out of the classroom because of teacher-training days.

The “truancy sweep” across Colchester was a joint initiative between Essex Police and educational welfare officers from the county council.

The operation was part of the largest co-ordinated youth initiative in a bid to stamp out underage crime and victimisation.

Yesterday morning teams headed out across the town to speak to children and find out why they were out of school.


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The teams had the power to stop youngsters, and if necessary take them back to their schools.

However teacher-training days for Lexden Primary School and Gosbecks School meant there were a few more pupils with their parents than might have been expected.

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Sergeant Matthew Mallett said: “Our responsibility is stop them and we have the power to stop people and talk to them.

“It is the educational welfare service responsibility to ask why they are not in school and if they are with their parents, it can be a case of education for the parents.”

Popular areas for truants include the graveyard on Mersea Road and the area around the town's library.

Pc John Meacock and educational welfare officer Justine Musk headed to Tesco at Highwoods, where they spotted a number of youngsters with parents or grandparents.

But after a friendly word from Pc Meacock, it emerged they were all out with good reason - either teacher training or in one case a kidney infection.

Afterwards Sergeant Mallett said 30 youngsters had been stopped, with three of them found to be truanting, with the others out with good excuse.

He said: “Thirty was not a high number but that is a good thing - we covered the whole area and if that is the total then people are getting the message.

“You cannot work around schools having teacher training days, there are about 12 secondary schools and 56 primary schools and they have them on different days so that is out of the equation really.”

The youth spotlight partnership, codenamed operation Cougar Cub, is running over two weeks in a bid to confront issues in a positive way, with the help of a network of youth support groups.

The new scheme has four main areas in which the police will work with a range of partners to improve the future of young people in the community.

The project is designed to engage youngsters, reduce the victimisation they face, identify and help those at risk of offending, and enforce measures to deal firmly and fairly with young offenders and to prevent them from re-offending.

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