Halt tackles school absenteeism

Frequent truancy may affect juveniles’ learning progress and may curb the development of a positive self-image. The Dutch Government plans to drastically reduce school absenteeism for the next few years. One of the actions that can be taken in this respect is to refer truants to Halt.

Halt provides juveniles with the opportunity to right their wrongs, for instance first offenders who have committed such minor offences as theft and vandalism, whilst avoiding a criminal record. Truancy forms a huge risk factor for later criminal conduct and is therefore part of the programme.
A breach of the Compulsory Education Act is a punishable offence and includes clear elements of consciously breaking the law and exploration of legal boundaries. A swift response by an external agency working closely with the judicial system is therefore appropriate.

Until now, there had been no Halt programme focusing on truancy. At the start of 2011, however, PLATO – a research and development centre of the University of Leiden – joined forces with schools, school attendance officers and Halt employees experienced in the field to create a new programme.

The Halt Programme on Truancy will comprise not only all the basic elements of a standard Halt programme (see Halt Programme / Contents), but will also incorporate digital learning assignments. Alongside the fact that young people ‘have to go to Halt’ for their punishment, they learn best when they are encouraged to do so by their own environment. A digital learning environment is in line with their world of experience and their way of learning. The results of the learning assignments can also be monitored in this way.

The pilot project is expected to be launched in a number of regions in April/May 2011 and the new programme will be used for the first time at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

For further information, please contact project leader Eric Wiersma by e-mail: e.wiersma@halt.nl.