As we start a new year and return to work after the festive break, it is probably difficult for many of us to remember our school days and not too dissimilar sentiments over returning to school after the Christmas holidays.

For so many reasons school is important to our society as it offers the educational opportunities for our young people to go on and achieve their ambitions in life.

As a police officer, it concerns me when young people are not in school when they should be. It begs the question — if they are not in school, and their parent or guardian is not aware of their absence, where are they, what are they doing and who are they with?

Apart from the obvious loss of education and chances that they are missing out on, policing experience tells me truanting places young people at increased risk of harm. This could be through engaging in anti-social behaviour, or criminality — either as a victim or as a perpetrator.

There is a parental responsibility to encourage school attendance and local authorities should be there to assist, also.

On the Island we are looking at this issue with our partners, to address it longer term.

Sgt Ben Sharland has been leading our neighbourhoods teams in a ‘truancy sweep’, in all areas that have secondary schools. This action is authorised under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and gives police officers and PCSOs the power to take truant children to a designated safe location during school hours.

Once at a designated location, our partners from the Education and Inclusion Service can engage with the child and their family, to address the reasons for the truancy.
The sweep requires consultation and support from our partners at the Education and Inclusion Service, and also requires the authority of a Police Superintendent.

The sweep isn’t designed to criminalise young people or parents but to safeguard them, and identify what can be done to ensure their attendance at school.

This isn’t a one off operation — we will continue to work with the Education and Inclusion Team and the Community Safety Partnership at IW Council, to break these links and keep young people safe.

  • This is a monthly column by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary