A six-week pilot study, which could be extended nationally, will be run in Southend, Essex, and will be funded by a £22,000 grant from the Department for Education and Skills. A further £250,000 has earmarked if the trial proves successful.
Under the scheme, students with attendance rates of less than 85% will be given the option of attending lessons before and after school to make up for any time that they miss during normal classroom hours. As with work-based flexi-time, the hours that the youngsters put in will be added up and count towards their total attendance. The funding will pay for a member of staff or a new teacher to cover the out-of-hours lessons, which will concentrate on the 'three Rs'.
Sally Carr, a Conservative who is the executive councillor for education at Southend BC, said: 'Many of these children come from a difficult home background and there may be reasons why they are not doing regular school hours. They may be bullied and don't want to be in school at the same time as some of the other children.
In Southend last year, more than 4,000 pupils played truant for at least one half day, while another 21,000 missed more than one half day in authorised absence. In a recent truancy sweep in the town, almost a third of children stopped did not have a valid reason for being away from school. Of these, more than 60% were with their parents'.
Ms Carr said current methods for tackling non-attendance had achieved little.