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AXMINSTER: Tales of a truant officer for Axminster Probus members

Thursday, 15 May 2014

TALKING to Axminster Probus Club members at their May meeting on the subject “The Life a Truant Officer”, Marian Scott said that the requirement for the job was to have common sense and a sense of humour. She told members that there were many and varied excuses for absence, some ludicrous, some requiring sympathy and many for totally unacceptable reasons. With a catchment area in the poorest parts of Leeds, it was not surprising that feckless parents and lack of self-esteem affected the children. Even so, it was a source of pride to Marian that some of these had their lives transformed due to her efforts – although many were beyond redemption. The Education Act of 1880 had introduced the concept of compulsory education, but only up to the age of 10. That was subsequently altered to 12. Both parent and child could be taken to court for non-attendance and the child could be taken into care. When Marian took up her position, the truant officer had considerable power and was able to authorise meals, clothing and transport where appropriate. In 1988 the system changed and truant officers were assimilated into the social services. That restricted their scope and truancy increased. Children now knew their rights and were not slow to voice them! Families on benefits could be taken to court and fined but that was useless since the fines were invariably waived. “Auntie Marian” to the children, she nevertheless showed authority with sympathy which won her many friends in a tough neighbourhood. Towards the end of her talk she gave some anecdotal accounts, some humorous and some full of pathos, the latter reducing members to awed silence. The huge difficulty facing truant officers was clear but sometimes there were success stories and it was good to know that dedicated people like Mrs Scott were there to enable them. The Axminster Probus Club for retired and semi-retired business and professional men meets at the Kilmington Cafe, Bistro & Motel on the A35 Gammons Hill on the first Tuesday of each month. For further information ring 01460 220528.

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