New rules to stop truancy

2010-05-12 00:00

THE days of bunking school and getting away with it, and pupils taking time off to study at home on their free days during an exam period, will be a thing of the past when a new “learner attendance policy” is implemented next year.

This policy means that pupils will not be the only ones required to pull their socks up. Their parents will be forced to play a more active role in monitoring their children’s school attendance.

Teachers — some of whom might prefer pupils at home and out of their hair on those days that they are not writing exams — will be encouraged to provide revision exercises and additional tuition for pupils.

The policy allows schools to strike off their class rolls as well as the school’s academic records, any pupil who misses 10 consecutive days of school. Before the pupil can be accepted back, they will need to be re-registered by a parent or caregiver, who will be required to explain the absenteeism.

“The policy is aimed at ensuring that where a learner has been absent for an extended period of time, parents come to the school to explain that absence.

“Where parents don’t come, the learner’s record will be cancelled and that child cannot be allowed back in class,” said Basic Education spokesperson Granville Whittle.

While Whittle said the principal will ultimately be left to decide the legitimacy of the reasons given, he said the policy won’t amount to expulsion.

He said the idea is to encourage a co-operative relationship with parents.

Local principals who spoke to The Witness were divided. While some were not opposed to the policy’s aim, saying that it will especially help poorly managed and dysfunctional schools, one principal saw it as “a publicity stunt”.

The principal said this is something already in operation, adding that it does little to curb absenteeism.

“The fact is, it is only in extreme cases that a learner would miss 10 consecutive days. Absenteeism is largely characterised by two to five days. The Basic Education Department is creating the impression that it is attending to the problem when in fact there is no change.”

Another key aspect of this new policy is that pupils will not be allowed to miss school during and after exams, even on days they are not writing.

The only exception is matriculants, who are permitted five days off before their final exams start.

Whittle said this is to ensure that every single minute of school time is utilised in school activities such as revision exercises and additional tuition where necessary.

One principal said his school encouraged attendance by pupils, even on days when they are not writing. However, parents often see it as an opportunity to save on taxi fares, especially when exams are over.

Another principal said their school has already had to rethink their planning around exam times to ensure that pupils don’t have free days. They now start exams later in the term and pupils write until the last day.

On days where pupils are not writing, they provide venues and staff to supervise study.

But he said this is onerous for staff, who have to cope with invigilating other exams and marking.

This makes it impossible to get reports out at the end of the term and their pupils only get reports on the second week of the following term, he added.

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