Truancy claims under fire
By EMMA CORNFORD
SOUTH Grafton High has rejected truancy figures published in a Sydney newspaper last week.
The report in the Daily Telegraph claimed the school had one of the highest increases in truancy rates in the state from 2002 to 2003, along with Rose Bay Secondary College, Bomaderry High and Wadalba Community.
Clarence Valley schools education director Ron Phillips said the figures quoted in the article were absolutely false.
"I've spoken to (South Graf- ton High principal) Barry Bartley and those figures are totally inaccurate and are absolutely no reflection of the absentee rates at South Grafton High," he said. "In fact, South Grafton High has had absentee rates for the past four years which have been only slightly below or above the state average ? nothing like what the article claimed."
Mr Phillips said there were a number of strategies in place at South Grafton High and other schools in the Clarence Valley, to monitor students' at- tendance to minimise truancy.
"Most schools have implemented systems to maximise student attendance. South Grafton High has put in place a student card system so the students swipe out through the attendance system at the end of the day ... and that's been in place for the past four or five years.
"It means the school is able to track student attendance on a daily basis ? even partial attendance. If on any day it is brought to the school's attention that a student may be ab- sent without permission, then the parents are notified by the school."
He said figures quoted in the article, which indicated that truancy had increased by 124.6 per cent from 2002 to 2003 had confused genuine absences, such as sickness, excursions and TAFE attendance, with truancy.
"South Grafton High has a strong standing in the community and has the respect of the community and, in fact, has had a seven per cent increase in enrolments over the past seven years," he said.
According to the school's newsletter, absentee rates ? including absences with permission ? have stood at around ten per cent since 2001.
New South Wales education minister Carmel Tebbutt said principals of other schools mentioned in the article had also expressed outrage over the figures quoted.
"They have confused 'explained absences' ... with truancy," Ms Tebbutt said.
"The true facts are that the NSW Government's strong and detailed plans are working to stop truancy."