School-aged pupils without school

March 20, 2006

In the Netherlands school-aged children in the age range 5 to 16 years no longer participating in any form of education is an increasingly frequent phenomenon. Children who are absent from school for a period of two months or more are referred to as long-term truants. On behalf of NWO, Theo van Batenburg and his colleagues investigated the number of long-term truants, their characteristics and the underlying causes of this absenteeism. The report has recently been published.

Each year between 2500 and 5000 pupils remain at home for a period of two months of longer. Of these about ten percent are on a waiting list for special education or youth care. One of the causes of long-term truancy is that the procedure for obtaining pupil-specific funding takes too long in many cases. There are not enough personnel to perform the necessary diagnoses. Moreover the school attendance officer has considerable problems placing pupils who receive no pupil-specific funding following the assessment.

The level of absenteeism is lower in smaller municipalities than in larger ones. Although larger towns and cities suffer from higher truancy levels, they also have more resources available to tackle this problem. The most effective policies seem to be those aimed at short lines of communication with the education field. One solution is to allow school attendance officers to spend part of their time working at the schools. However small municipalities often have too little capacity to make this a realistic option. This is one of the reasons why municipalities are increasingly working together.

Frustrated adolescents

The highest level of truancy is among the less-able secondary school pupils and the figures for this are much higher than for average to high-ability secondary school pupils. Compared to secondary education, the level of truancy at primary schools is low. Long-term truancy is highest among adolescents.

This is mainly because they have become utterly frustrated with school. They often already have a considerable educational gap. There are special projects aimed at motivating these young people, but these do not always focus enough on overcoming this educational gap. The young people therefore remain trapped in a negative spiral of an increasingly greater educational gap and dropout.
-end-
This research was carried out on behalf of the Policy-oriented Research into Primary Education Programme (Dutch acronym: BOPO).

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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