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Local school absenteeism at crisis point

28-07-2010

County Down Outlook

SCHOOL absenteeism rates have reached such "chronic" levels in some County Down areas that calls are being made for action to be taken, prior to the new school year.
Absenteeism in both primary and secondary schools is "reaching crisis point" and there are fears those young children are risking throwing away their futures.
Some wards in Down District, as well as some in Newry and Mourne, are seeing children as young as 11 years old, missing school.
Kilkeel South Ward in Newry and Mourne, had 21 percent of 15 to 17-year-olds absent at least 15 percent of the time, while Kilkeel Central Ward had 28 percent of the same age group absent from school at least 15 percent of the time.

In Ballymote, Cathedral and Dundrum Wards in Down District figures were as high as 25 percent for 15 to 17-year-olds attending less than 85 percent of the school year.
These statistics have been described as "scandalous" and the situation "clearly problematic."

However, absenteeism is not exclusive to secondary schools, as some primary school children are also missing school.
Ten percent of primary school age were not in attendance at school at least 15 percent of the time in 2007 to 2008 in Down's Murlough Ward.
UUP MLA John McCallister has said - “more must be done to tackle school absenteeism" which he claims in some areas of his constituency is "reaching crisis point."
“Given the clear links between areas of economic and social deprivation and children's school attendance and that our teenagers of today will be parents of tomorrow," he said, "if we want to increase the chance of employment and to minimise levels of child poverty in the future, then we must address the factors causing absenteeism.
“If these areas are ever to free themselves from the cycle of deprivation, then this must be tackled.
“With figures like these painting a bleak picture for many communities across Northern Ireland, it is time the Education Minister looked at her priorities.
“Chronic absenteeism and school truancy have visible negative consequences for young people and ultimately for their employability as adults.
“Quite simply, if children are not in school the odds that they will succeed are lessened."

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