A “TRUANCY patrol” is effectively cracking down on children skipping school in Southend.

During the last school year, the patrols carried out 424 home visits, while 164 parents were “educated” - with guidance given on the negative effects missing school can have.

Despite the large number of home visits, just nine children were directly returned to school by the team.

But Southend Council insisted many more return to school out of free will, or are returned by parents.

Although the authority has previously used “truancy patrols”, the introduction of the Adolescent Intervention Prevention Team last year has seen an extra focus.

Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and young people, told the Echo truancy can often lead to exploitation and, potentially, crime.

She said: “We take truancy very seriously as, not only do children miss out on their education, but being out of school can leave them vulnerable to exploitation.

“The council works closely with schools and the police to provide early-help interventions with children, young people and families before truancy problems escalate.”

The team is sent lists of pupils who are missing school and members are tasked with establishing why.

After the home visit, referrals to other services can be made if other issues arise.

Mrs Jones added: “Additionally we undertake patrols where young people from school are visited and family members are offered advice and support in ensuring that their children attend school.

“Similarly, since April 2018, Southend has created a rapid response frontline service to work with children, young people at risk of, or experiencing, sexual exploitation, children associated with gangs and at risk of exploitation and children missing from home, care or education.

“This team provides a service that combines prevention, risk-reduction, protection and recovery that can identify responses based on levels of risk and need to young people and their families.

“We also provide a raft of additional services for looked-after children, including operating a call-monitoring system so that we know when children are absent and seek to understand the underlying reasons why.

“Further, we monitor persistent absences and exclusions to ensure children are kept safe.”

in these circumstances too.”