Former child advocate appointed to fight truancy

Marc Dullaert reading to kids during National Reading Days, 20 Jan 2015 (Photo:@Kinderombudsman/Twitter). (Marc Dullaert reading to kids during National Reading Days, 20 Jan 2015 (Photo:@Kinderombudsman/Twitter))

Former Children's Ombudsman Marc Dullaert was appointed to lead the fight against truancy in the Netherlands, the Ministry of Education announced on Monday. His job will be to enforce agreements made in a Truancy Pact made with the aim of having not a single child out of school for more than 3 months by 2020.

The Truancy Pact was made in Utrecht by State Secretaries Sander Dekker of Education and Martin van Rijn of Public Health with the council for primary schools PO-Raad, council for secondary schools VO-Raad, the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Association of Dutch Municipalities.

Last year about 10 thousand children were out of school for long or short periods. "That number must be reduced. Each child has a right to education", Dekker said. "With this pact we fill some gaps in the agreements. It provides a comprehensive approach so that children and their parents are no longer sent from one place to another."

The Pact stipulates that municipalities and schools will agree together on who will have the final say in finding a place for a child currently or likely to end up sitting at home. Now kids too often fall through the cracks because there is no overriding authority.

Municipalities will develop a clear roadmap on tackling truants. Prevention, together with healthcare and customization for children who need it, will form part of this action plan.

The Pact also states that parents and, where possible, the children themselves must always be involved in finding a suitable place for education. "One of the keys to success is good communication with parents", Dekker said. "Many regions already involve parents, but now it also in black and white in the agreements."

Dullaert's job will be to make sure these agreements are enforced and to encourage and admonish regions who are not performing well enough. "We see that may places are working hard, for example in Utrecht and Rotterdam. At the same time there are regions falling behind, while they can make a difference for many students", Dekker said. "Clear, regional agreements can make or break a child's future. It is good that Dullaert will fight for this."