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'Truancy police' find sick children out shopping

POLICE and education welfare officers returned 13 students to school during a truancy sweep in Thanet.

Of the 82 children stopped on the street and spoken to on Friday, 52 were accompanied by a parent or guardian and had a reason for being out of school, such as going to the dentist or being unwell, while four children were not at school due to having been excluded.

PC Jackie Whitehead, officer in charge of the initiative, said: "It was quite surprising how many children had been reported by parents as being too sick to go to school, yet they were well enough to go shopping.

"By law children have to be at school unless they have a good reason not to be. Going shopping is not a good reason, and parents who support their children skipping school can get themselves into trouble."

PC Whitehead said it was also concerning to find 13 children roaming the streets with no adult supervision.

She added: "My biggest concern is that nobody knew where these 13 children were or what they were up to, but it also worries me that these children are missing out on their education."

During the truancy sweep officers also located a 15-year-old boy who had been reported missing from his foster home in the early hours of that morning.

PC Whitehead said truancy sweeps are held regularly and parents should expect to be quizzed over why their children are out of school.

The officer said: "We take details of all of the children we speak to and where necessary will follow up with their parents the reasons why they are out of school, even if they are with their parents at the time."

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