Ghent takes tough stance against truants

11th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

New measures against truancy include having a police officer visit students after they fail to turn up in school for a day.

11 September 2008

GHENT -- The judicial authorities in Ghent have approved a series of measures to tackle the problem of truancy in schools.

In future, students who are known to play truancy will be visited at home by a police office after being absent from school for one day without any justifiable reason.

The tougher measures taken by the Ghent judicial authorities aim to tackle the problem of increased truancy levels over the years.

In the school year of 2007- 2008, the police in the East Flemish capital had to deal with 110 cases of persistent truancy, a figure that is too high, said truancy consultant Ann Robbijns.

"In 90 percent of the 110 cases, we were able to persuade the youngster to return to school. In the remaining ten cases, a statement was taken," Robbijns said in an interview to the VRT.

"Unfortunately, no further action was taken, meaning that the most persistent truants got off scot-free."

New tougher measures
Ghent authorities state that schools must now keep records of absences.

Pupils that are often absent from school can expect a visit from a police officer after having skipped school for just one day.

The child and his or her parents will then have to sign an anti-truancy charter. They could face a court summons if they either refuse to sign an anti-truancy contract or fail to abide by its conditions.

The police also plan to pay regular visits to bars and cafés located in the school’s vicinity in an effort to track down truants.

Measures taken in other Belgian cities
Antwerp has appointed a civil servant that deals specifically with truants. She keeps a register of truancy cases.

The official definition of a truant is a youngster that has been unjustifiably absent for more than 10 half days during a given school year. Thirteen percent of Antwerp's school population played truant during the 2006-2007 school year.

In the West Flemish city of Bruges, the schools take action together with the Educational Welfare Office whenever a pupil has been absent without leave for more than 10 half days. If this fails, the matter is referred to the police.

In Brussels, the situation is no less than catastrophic. There is no school enrolment data for around 6,000 youngsters in the capital.

In the past, Brussels' Dutch and French-language education networks did not exchange data on pupils, aggravating the problem. Now, all enrolment information is pooled and officials at the local town hall can check that all children of school age are at least enrolled at a school.

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