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REWARDS FOR SCHOOL ATTENDANCE ATTACKED

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Pupils with good attendance records are being rewarded with foreign holidays and tickets to international football ...
Pupils with good attendance records are being rewarded with foreign holidays and tickets to international football matches, a trend which was condemned at the weekend as 'turning natural justice on its head', reported The Sunday Telegraph (p22). One pupil 'from the Manchester area' was awarded a two-week, all-expenses paid trip to Disneyland in Florida for a family of four simply for turning up at school regularly.

Details of a whole range of rewards, contained in a new book - Truancy and Schools - emerged days after education secretary David Blunkett announced fines of up to£5,000 for the parents of truants. About one million children a year play truant, with serious offenders missing an average of 15 half-days. Mr Blunkett said tough measures were needed to ensure all children attended school regularly.

However, the book by Ken Reif, of the Swansea Institute of Higher Education, suggests that far from dealing firmly with truants and their families, many schools were effectively bribing them to turn up. Rewards such as book and CD tokens have been common for several years, but Mr Reaid's book - compiled after a studt of hundreds of schools - suggests the range and cost of prizes has expanded dramatically. Shadow education secretary Theresa May said that small prizes could be justified, particularly if they created peer pressure to attend school. But it was 'way over the top' to award holidays.

The DfEE refused to comment on overseas trips, but said that rewards were justified. 'We want to encourage children to learn and offering incentives is one method', said a spokesman.
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