New government figures show that truancy levels in Derry schools are among the highest in the north.
The north’s Education Minster John O’Dowd says his department remains committed to tacking absenteeism in the classrooms and says work is ongoing to combat truancy.
But the latest figures, which detail the number of pupils who have a less than 85% attendance record - the level at which the Education Welfare Service is notified of a pupil’s poor attendance - show around one in ten pupils across the north has a worryingly low attendance record.
In some parts of Derry that figure rises to around one in every five pupils.
The latest figures show that in the year 2011/2012, around 5.6% of primary school pupils 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 around one in every 8 pupils - only Belfast and Larne have a greater absenteeism rate.
But that figure for post primary attendance rises to over 20% of pupils ion the Brandywell, Creggan South and Central, Victoria and Ebrington electoral wards.
Mr O’Dowd says plans are underway to combat poor attendance across the north.
“The Department collects pupil level attendance information which allows for in-depth analysis of patterns and levels of absence, by school and pupil characteristics, informing how current approaches to tackling poor attendance might be more effectively targeted,” he says.
“My Department Funds the Education Welfare Service (EWS) within the five Education and Library Boards. The 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.”
The Minster says a recently completed major research study will guide his department’s policies.
“A research study to identify strategies which have been successful in improving attendance in schools serving disadvantaged areas has recently been completed (May 2012) and has been published on my Department’s website.
“The attendance research made four overarching recommendations, all schools should have attendance policies, resources should be provided to schools illustrating interventions, evaluating the impact of interventions on attendance and the sharing of good practice.
“Officials are now working with the Education Welfare Service and schools to develop guidance which will address the recommendations in the attendance research study. This guidance is due to issue to schools at the end of the current school year.
“A leaflet reinforcing the need for regular attendance is also due to issue from the Department to all pupils in year 1 and year 8,” he says.
The table below details the rate per thousand of primary school enrolments with less than 85%
attendance by Derry Electoral Ward in 2011/12 ( Source Dept of Education)
CARN HILL 68.2
CREGGAN CENTRAL 72.4
CREGGAN SOUTH 64.8
ENAGH (DERRY) 64.5
FOYLE SPRINGS 33.6
HOLLY MOUNT 20.9
NEW BUILDINGS 15.9
SHANTALLOW EAST 94.3
SHANTALLOW WEST 78.5
STRAND (DERRY) 149.6
THE DIAMOND 109.6
VICTORIA (DERRY) 59.6
The table below details the rate per thousand of post-primary school enrolments with less than 85%
attendance by Derry Electoral Ward in 2011/12
CARN HILL 132.1
CREGGAN CENTRAL 207.1
CREGGAN SOUTH 208.3
ENAGH (DERRY) 100.7
FOYLE SPRINGS 54.3
HOLLY MOUNT 80.9
NEW BUILDINGS 125.0
SHANTALLOW EAST 190.0
SHANTALLOW WEST 156.3
STRAND (DERRY) 144.1
THE DIAMOND 153.3
VICTORIA (DERRY) 207.5