asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will institute an inquiry into the problem of truancy in Welsh schools.
A departmental working group has already reported to my right hon. and learned Friend on absenteeism from the schools of Wales. The Welsh Joint Education Committee, teachers' associations and others are now being consulted about this report, which deals with truancy as well as other forms of absenteeism.
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the truancy statistics which seem to have shocked the journalists came as no surprise whatever to masters and mistresses in Welsh comprehensive schools? Will he now try to ascertain the cause of truancy, and will he look at the raising of the school leaving age to see whether that is a major cause?
I recognise the seriousness of the figures shown in the report. I regard truancy as a distress call and as a missed opportunity to prepare oneself for life. There is no complacency whatever in the Welsh Office on this matter. We shall treat it with urgency and consult widely, returning to the House with measures to get rid of the bad figures which presently exist.
In view of the anxious concern expressed by many experienced teachers in many parts of Wales, especially in the pressure areas, the larger urban conurbations and so on, can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that his right hon. and learned Friend and all who are involved in the Welsh Office will treat this matter with the utmost urgency with a view to examining and implementing this report at the earliest possible date?
I give that assurance. I can tell the hon. Gentleman also that the South Glamorgan local education authority has itself, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Services, initiated a study, and I am awaiting that report as well. I am fully apprised of the correlation between urban areas and high rates of truancy. Finally, I must stress the extreme importance of the contribution that parents can make in this matter.