More than a thousand sweeps were carried out during the 2006 autumn term. Around 4 truants were found per sweep; 60% of those stopped were not truants. A sweep generally lasts 3 hours, involving police officers, education officials, Community Support Officers etc etc. The average haul per police officer involved is 1 truant for every one-and-a-half hours of sweep.
It wastes millions and it is having no effect whatsoever on truancy figures. In fact the latest reports show that those figures are rising. Quite why everyone is prepared to tolerate having their Council Tax spent on having police officers prop up the walls in draughty shopping centres for hours at a time is beyond us, but it seems that the current truancy sweep policy is immune to logic.
If we’re not going to get rid of sweeps, then maybe we should extend them? The Guardian today says that:
The total cost of workplace absence last year was £13bn. Employers said they attributed around 12% of short-term absences to staff “pulling a sickie”, which meant 21m days were lost at a cost of £1.6bn.
If the government were to extend the truancy sweep powers to allow the police to question anyone seen out and about during working hours, we feel sure that the public would understand. After all, £1.6bn is a lot of money. If people aren’t bunking off work then, like the 60% of children who are not truanting when they are stopped and questioned, they have nothing to fear. Can’t see any problem really…