OBSERVER news editor STEPHANIE TURNER was invited to join police and education welfare officers as they roamed Accrington town centre on the lookout for kids playing truant from school. Here is her shock report …
YOUNGSTERS can often be seen wandering around the town centre during the daytime.
Some have legitimate reasons for being off school; many are simply bunking off.
Surprisingly, the vast majority are with parents who seem to condone their absence.
Research has shown that juvenile nuisance in the borough is reported during the daytime as well as in the evening and at weekends.
It is the job of Hyndburn’s youth involvement officer, PC Gail Lyon, to ensure kids playing truant are taken off the streets and returned to school immediately.
Last Friday I joined senior education welfare officer Julie Lloyd and PCSO Susan Hartley for a three-hour patrol around the town centre.
Within minutes the first youngster was spotted and approached.
In all, a total of 36 children were stopped with their parents and three youngsters were found wandering around alone. These were returned to school in a police van.
PC Lyon said: “Children should not be outside school walking around alone. Apart from the fact that some are causing problems with regard to criminal damage and shoplifting, it just isn’t safe for them.”
Julie said that over the years she has heard a whole host of reasons why a child was not at school.
One mother claimed her daughter had pneumonia despite the fact she was walking around the shops on a bitterly cold day.
Parents are generally helpful when approached by the welfare officers. One mother explained that her daughter had been off ill since Tuesday but remained absent on Friday because her sister went into labour during the night and she hadn’t had much sleep.
Although many parents are willing to answer questions, one man – accompanied by four children – became confrontational and told Susan that it was “none of her business” how old his children were.
He stormed past and went inside McDonalds, believing that was the end of the matter.
However, back-up was called and PCs Steve Hilton and Louise Miller arrived in a police van and ordered the man to provide his personal details.
Everyone stopped during the operation had to complete a personal details form.
The forms were returned to a team of education welfare officers, stationed in Accrington Town Hall, who contacted the schools in question to verify that authority had been given for each absence.
PC Lyon added: “At the end of the day, we want to warn anyone considering playing truant that we will be watching them. Truancy sweeps must be carried out at least three times a year but we will be doing a lot more in the future.
“They will never know when we are out and about but we will be watching.”