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Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 22 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take following the report by the committee investigating truancy in Scottish schools; and if he will make a statement.

The Pack Committee of Inquiry into Truancy and Indiscipline was set up in the late summer of last year and has not yet reported.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that this problem has been a serious one for the past few years? Does he agree that it is due, among other things, to the shortage of teachers, the lack of an attractive curriculum for these young people aged from 15 to 16, and the slum school accommodation which they are expected to occupy? Would it not ease the problem immediately if the Secretary of State allowed such children to leave school on the day they turn 16? Would this not also help them to take up employment which they are frequently offered but lose because they have to wait until the official school-leaving date?

As my hon. Friend has recognised, the problems of truancy and indiscipline have many origins. As for the point that he makes about the leaving date, he will know that my right hon. Friend told my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Hunter) on 14th January that a review of school leaving dates is at present being undertaken.

Has the Minister seen the report in today's Press about a large number of children—a number running into many hundreds—who have been taken up by the police in the borough of Lambeth while playing truant? Does he think that it would be a good thing to have a similar swoop in some Scottish cities?

I have seen the report. I would need to consider the matter before drawing any conclusions.