Derry truancy rates among NI highest

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The rate of absenteeism in Derry schools is among the highest in the North, Department of Education figures reveal.

Statistics released by the North’s Education Minister John O’Dowd detail the number of pupils who have a less than 85% attendance record.

In Derry around 6.9% of primary school pupils - or one in every 14 pupils enrolled - have an attendance record below 85% - ranking as the second highest across all the North’s local council areas, with the exception of Belfast.

The percentage of pupils enrolled in Derry’s secondary schools (Years 8-12) with an attendance record of less than 85% stood at 13%, or just under one in every 8 pupils, in 2010/11 - only Belfast and Cookstown have a greater absenteeism rate.

Mr O’Dowd says his Department is committed to cutting absenteeism.

“The Education Welfare Service (EWS) receives referrals from schools when pupils’ attendance is a cause for concern or when attendance drops below 85%. The EWS also supports schools through proactive work on attendance strategies and advising on attendance policy.

“My Department recently commissioned a research study to identify strategies which are successful in improving attendance in schools serving deprived areas.

“The findings of the research will be published in May 2012,” he says.

Mr O’Dowd says the Department “regards non-attendance at school as a symptom of an underlying problem”.