TRUANTS are no longer troublemakers skipping out on class for the fun of it, according to Graeme Keir, the EIS Fife spokesperson. 

These days, he said they tend to be kids with mental health issues, anxiety and additional support needs. 

“These kids are the canaries in the cage,” Mr Keir went on. 

“The character of these kids should really be telling school leaders something about the issues at school.

"It’s issues about support, it’s issues about class size, it’s issues about safety and mental health.” 

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Mr Keir was speaking after Fife Council discussed the latest school attendance figures, with the Kingdom's performance below the Scottish average for primary and secondary.

Maria Lloyd, head of education, said the issues are “complex and wide ranging” and, nationally, there’s been a decline in school attendance since around 2014.

From an EIS perspective, Mr Keir said the decline coincides with school funding cuts, increasing class sizes, a rising number of children with additional support needs and longer wait times for mental health care. 

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“The classes are too big, there are not enough resources to meet student needs in a lot of cases, we have more and more kids that have additional support needs, and it’s impossible to meet those needs with the resources we have,” he said. 

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“I think the violence and aggression that’s increasing in schools – that’s experienced by kids as well and they’re traumatised by it.

"In a lot of cases they don’t want to go to school.” 

He continued: “There are big changes in society as well. There’s a lot more poverty, there’s a lot fewer social workers and family workers, the waiting time to get any kind of mental health support for children or families is a national scandal.” 

As to why figures are worse in Fife than elsewhere, Mr Keir said: “I think Fife has the third highest level of poverty of any local authority in Scotland and we know poverty is linked to a lack of attendance in school. 

“We also have these super sized schools which are very impersonal and are very difficult for anybody to survive in and thrive in.”