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Journal Article

Truancy in secondary school pupils: prevalence, trajectories and pupil perspectives


Publication date



School absenteeism and particularly unauthorized absenteeism or truancy has been the focus of a number of, so far largely unsuccessful, recent policy initiatives. The paper draws upon two sources of data, the British Household Panel Survey and detailed interviews with a group of persistent truants, to consider the extent, consequences and explanations for truancy from secondary schools. Truancy increases steadily across the years of secondary school and, especially in the later years of compulsory schooling there is evidence that patterns of truancy established in one year carry on into the next. Truancy is strongly associated with negative outcomes in terms of not staying in education post-16, GCSE results and becoming unemployed. Coming from families of low socio-economic status, parents not monitoring homework, negative attitudes towards teachers and the value of education are all associated with higher levels of truancy. However, the majority of young people in these situations do not truant and there are many truants who do not have these characteristics. A major explanation given by young people themselves for their non-attendance is poor relationships with teachers, including teachers failing to match their expectations. Other factors mentioned by young people include bullying but also a more general dislike of the atmosphere of the school, sometimes associated with a change of school. There was little evidence of negative responses to the curriculum leading to truancy. It is suggested that we can distinguish between socio-economic and attitudinal factors which make young people vulnerable to truancy and precipitating events or processes which result in truanting behaviour.

Published in

Research Papers in Education


21 (4):467-484



Young People and Education


not held in Res Lib - bibliographic reference only


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