'Hopelessness' blamed as 1,328 Hull schoolchildren regularly skip class
ABSENCE in Hull's schools is being fuelled by a lack of job prospects for demoralised youths conditioned to failure, a union leader has claimed.
Secondary school pupils in Hull are missing from class more than anyone in the country, according to new figures.
And Mike Whale, branch secretary of the NUT, has blamed national league tables such as these for creating a culture of institutionalised failure in the city.
He warned a shortage of jobs for school-leavers was breeding a sense of hopelessness among disengaged youths.
Mr Whale said: "The Government should drop the league tables and this constant target-setting.
"You are institutionalised to failure and that seeps through if you are constantly at the bottom of the league tables.
"They demoralise people, they turn students off education and they stigmatise teachers."
Latest figures show the city had 1,328 pupils regularly skipping school, or 10.4 per cent.
Mr Whale claimed many youths feel demoralised by a lack of job prospects and cannot see the point in attending school.
He said: "Hull is a low-wage city and a city of mass unemployment. There's a lot of very demoralised people out there.
"There's a feeling of hopelessness among the layer of students who look around Hull and see mass unemployment.
"Even if they get qualifications they think there is not going to be a job for them. They are asking the question, 'What is the point?'"
Hull's £400m Building Schools for the Future programme has seen multi- million-pound schools springing up across the city.
Figures from those already opened show attendance to be rising.
Officials at Hull City Council say the figure for unauthorised absence is high in the city because of a zero- tolerance policy to skipping school.
If headteachers think a parent is keeping a child from school when they could be in lessons, they will mark it as unauthorised absence.
Hull City Council says this means the authorised absence rate in Hull is much lower, with the consequence being the figures show more pupils are skipping school.
The unauthorised absence rates for primary schools in Hull showed the city 15th from the bottom.
Mr Whale said: "If you exist in a general background of mum and dad don't go to work, if they have been long-term unemployed, they maybe don't get up until mid- morning and there is maybe no one to get them to school.
"I am not saying that's always the case, a lot of unemployed people are determined their kids will get an education.
"It affects different students in different ways. Some are spurred on – if they are going to get a job, they are going to work especially hard."
Vanessa Harvey-Samuel, city manager for learning and skills, insisted figures had improved with the city placed 143 out of 152 nationally for persistent absence.
She said: "Both primary and secondary overall and persistent absence rates have improved and the local authority, schools and parents continue to work together to continue this positive progression.
"Over the past six years, we have been seeing far greater improvements than the national average.
"Our secondary school persistent absence has improved 2.7 percentage points, which is almost three times better than nationally."
But she accepted persistent absence from Hull's secondary schools continued to be a serious issue.
She said: "The development of academies and the new school buildings, which were part of the Building Schools for the Future programme, are encouraging more pupils to stay in school and these new schools and academies are showing significant improvements in attendance.
"In all Hull schools, attendance is a priority. Many offer exciting and innovative incentives for those children who attend regularly and employ dedicated staff assigned to support those families who struggle to maintain their child's regular attendance in school."
In the East Riding, secondaries were ranked 110th for persistent absence, with 1,570 regularly skipping classes.
Primaries were ranked 28th and special schools third best for their low levels of persistent absence.
Mike Furbank, head of achievement and inclusion, said: "Secondary schools still have a high level of persistent absence, although the measure has been redefined and it means more children have been brought into the scope of the measure."