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Head teacher blames ‘drug culture’ for truancy rates at north-east school

Peterhead Academy.
Peterhead Academy.

The head teacher of a north-east secondary school has blamed poor exam results on a “drug culture” that has led to some promising pupils skipping classes.

Shona Sellers said children at Peterhead Academy were risking their futures and called for parents to do more to ensure they attend.

Addressing councillors about recent attainment rates at a meeting of the Buchan area committee yesterday, she said the situation became so desperate last year that staff visited pupils’ homes to plead with them to come in and offer extra support.

And she said efforts had been made to stop teenagers taking drugs at school, including having a police officer on permanent patrol – with some significant success.

Peterhead South and Cruden councillor, Stephen Smith, meanwhile, made reference to the “truant officers” of the past and urged the local authority to do more.

Mrs Sellars – who also raised concerns over staffing levels at schools across the Peterhead area – told members of the committee: “We had issues with a drug culture last year and lost a number of youngsters through not attending school.

“Even quite able youngsters ended up with very little because they were not coming to school.

“It has been a difficult year, no doubt about it.”

The head teacher thanked the police for “taking action” by installing a “school-based officer” at the academy to clamp down on the problem.

She added: “I think he has made a big difference, and some of the youngsters who may have been taking substances at breaks are now less inclined to do so.”

The school has also appointed an extra pupil support worker, who has been visiting homes to try and persuade pupils to attend lessons.

Mrs Sellars added: “We have even had a situation where one of the departments visited the home of a young lad and made him sit on the doorstep in order to try and get him a qualification.”

Councillor Smith asked her: “Some of us will remember when we had a ‘truant catcher’.

“Is there more the council could be doing?”

Mrs Sellars agreed there was more the council could do to ensure that parents adhere to laws around sending their children to school.

The head also blamed a shortage of teachers for poor results, but was hopeful that might be improving.

She added: “Bad staffing throughout both primary and secondary school in the Peterhead area is impacting on the quality of qualifications that youngsters are getting.

“But last year we had 11 probationers and they are all staying, which is encouraging.”

An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman added: “While drugs in the community can be a factor, often the reasons for attendance issues are complex and we work closely with parents and guardians to provide support and advice to resolve any issues.”

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